Consulting Firm Proposes Pay Raises for Agency Heads

October 9, 2012

Investigative Reports

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Pay Raise AheadMore than a third of 81 state agency heads, including college and university presidents, would get pay hikes ranging up to nearly 14 percent to bring them up to comparable executive salaries, under recommendations by an international consulting firm.

The other agency heads already earn more than comparable minimum salaries, the study by the Philadelphia-based Hay Group found.

The salary recommendations were presented a recent S.C. Agency Head Salary Commission meeting. The 11-member panel, chaired by state Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence and the Senate Finance Committee chairman, took no formal action on the study; commission members indicated they likely wouldn’t meet again until after the Nov. 6 elections.

The study recommended that the base salaries of 33 top administrators who earn below minimum industry levels be increased by an average of 7 percent for agency heads and two-year college presidents, and 8 percent for four-year college presidents.

The proposed raises for the 33 administrators total $235,143.

Central Carolina Technical College President Tim Hardee would get the largest-percentage hike – 13.6 percent – to bring his salary in line with minimum levels under the recommendations, increasing his base annual salary by nearly $14,000 to $116,740 from $102,744.

Williamsburg Technical College President Patricia Lee and State Election Commission Executive Director Marci Andino also would each receive pay increases in the the 13-percent range, bringing their base annual salaries to $105,162 and $95,174, respectively, according to the study.

Rounding out the top five administrators who would receive the largest-percentage increases are Medical University of South Carolina President Raymond Greenberg and College of Charleston President George Benson, whose base annual salaries would jump by about 8 percent each to $250,629 and $179,498, respectively.

Other state agency heads recommended to receive pay bumps up to minimum levels cited by the study, with their proposed new base salaries in parentheses, include:

  • Department of Corrections Director Bill Byars, Department of Health and Human Services Director Tony Keck, and Department of Social Services Director Lillian Koller – 7 percent ($154,879 each);
  • Department of Revenue Director James Etter – 7 percent ($139,167);
  • Citadel President John Rosa – 4.5 percent ($146,384);
  • Clemson University President James Barker – 3 percent ($234,431); and
  • Department of Commerce Director Bobby Hitt – 2 percent ($154,879).

According to the Hay Group study, the last time the Agency Head Salary Commission adjusted base pay ranges was in 2007 when the panel increased salaries by an average of 8 percent and 13 percent for agency heads and higher-education presidents, respectively.

But that doesn’t mean top administrators’ paychecks haven’t grown in recent years. Take University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides, for example.

The board of trustees of the state’s flagship university voted Friday to ask the school’s educational foundation to increase Pastides’ annual pay by nearly 21 percent, to $724,000 from $599,000, The Statenewspaper reported. With a proposed $250,000 “retention” bonus if he is still at USC in five years, Pastides’ compensation would jump to $974,000, according to the newspaper.

Pastides’ compensation is split roughly between public and foundation money, the newspaper reported.

The Nerve has repeatedly pointed out that salaries of top-paid university employees have grown in recent years as students and their parents have contended with every-increasing tuition hikes. Since the 2008-09 academic year, for example, tuition for full-time, in-state undergraduate USC students has grown by 19.5 percent, according to the S.C. Commission on Higher Education.

In its study, the Hay Group said it based its recommendations mainly on job responsibilities, market competitiveness and employee interviews. Every four to five years since 1986, the firm has been commissioned to review agency heads’ pay.

Hay Group consultant Bill Reigel began the Agency Head Salary Commission meeting by saying, “We’re not looking at the performance of these individuals at all; we’re just assuming that whomever is in these roles are performing at an acceptable level.”

Contacted after the meeting, commission member Tom Hatfield of Hilton Head, who also is a citizen reporter for The Nerve, said while he was “impressed with the Hay Group methodology,” he was not entirely convinced by its findings.

“Of course, every one of them (agency heads) would attempt to convince the interviewer that their workload and responsibilities are considerable,” Hatfield said in a written response to The Nerve. “Who would not, given the opportunity?”

Another commission member, Sen. Wes Hayes, R-York, said afterward, “I think they [Hay Group] do a thorough job,” adding, “It’s been a long time since we went up on agency heads.”

“I have mixed emotions when we’re laying people off,” said commission member Rep. Leon Howard, D-Richland, when contacted by The Nerve. “On the other hand, agency heads have not had raises in quite some time. At some point we’re going to have to do it because they work really hard, and they have a lot of responsibilities.”

“Corporate execs usually make more than agency heads,” Howard continued. “We want to think about fairness to agency heads.”

Countered Hatfield: “As far as a large number of citizens are concerned, South Carolina is still in a recession. Does anyone truly believe that paying these agency heads and presidents more will improve our economy and encourage businesses to hire more people?”

Reach Weston at (803) 254-4411 or kelli@thenerve.org.