ST. PETERSBURG — Kathleen Ford recently offered red meat for a crowd of arts supporters seething over news that the city had eliminated its $75,000-a-year cultural affairs manager.
"When you have 70 city employees making more than $100,000 in the city of St. Petersburg, I think we can find the money to have somebody to manage and coordinate the arts," Ford told a standing-room-only crowd at a mayoral forum at the Studio@620. "It's just that important."
The implication from Ford, who is making her second run for mayor, is that there's fat to be cut from the city's highest wage earners. We'll get to that.
But first, her salary numbers.
Ford cites a Tampa Tribune database that tracks employee salaries of area governments to bolster her claim that 70 city employees make $100,000 or more. The database lists salaries of 15 local government agencies, including the cities of St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Largo, and Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
The information, which can be sorted by government, salary or position, is a snapshot of a government's salary structure. For St. Petersburg, the information presented is from October 2008, says St. Petersburg city human resources director Gary Cornwell.
Indeed, it supports Ford's assertion. According to the database, 71 city employees made $100,000 or more. The top earner was Mayor Rick Baker, with $162,314. The list then trickles down through the city's deputy mayors, its police and fire chief, its attorneys. The library director made a little more than $103,000 a year, the same as the man who runs the city's golf courses.
What's worth noting is that the numbers changed slightly by the time Ford made her statement late last month. The people making $100,000 or more in the city totaled 68 in April. And with a mandatory 2.5 percent pay cut imposed by Baker as part of budget cuts, the number has dropped again. The city says 64 people now make $100,000 or more. (The figure includes only salary and not other possible perks, like use of a government vehicle).
But Ford's point is largely accurate. The implication behind the numbers is more difficult to support.
For high-earning positions, St. Petersburg compares itself with six Florida governments — the cities of Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and Clearwater, and Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. The Times reviewed salary data for Tampa, Clearwater and Pinellas County, and collected full-time employee statistics from the start of the current budget cycle for each government.
The analysis shows: Approximately 2.5 percent of St. Petersburg city employees make $100,000 a year or more. In Tampa, 3.2 percent of all city employees make $100,000 or more. For Pinellas County, the number is closer to 5 percent.
In fact, of the four governments the Times reviewed, only Clearwater had a lower percentage of high wage earners, at about 1.05 percent.
The city also provided its own analysis of high-wage earners at 11 Florida governments. That analysis found 2.4 percent of St. Petersburg workers made $100,000 or more, the fourth lowest percentage among the Florida governments surveyed.
Ford is close on the numbers, but she is slightly off on the broader point. St. Petersburg rates at the low end of similar-sized Florida governments when it comes to the number of employees making $100,000 or more. For that, we find Ford's statement Mostly True.
1. Mayor Rick Baker, $158,355
2. Goliath J. Davis III, deputy mayor, $152,736
3. Patricia A. Elston, deputy mayor, $152,736
4. John C. Wolfe, city attorney, $152,736
5. Police Chief Chuck E. Harmon Jr., $152,315
6. Richard E. Mussett, senior administrator, $143,919
7. Micheal J. Connors, internal services administrator, $137,659
8. Muslim A. Gadiwalla, chief information officer, $137,659
9. Mark Wynn, chief assistant city attorney, $137,659
10. David Metz, deputy mayor, $136,032
11. William N. Drake Jr., assistant city attorney, $134, 889
12. Fire Chief James D. Large, $126,000
13. Clarence Scott III, city services administrator, $125,902
14. Thomas B. Gibson, engineering director, $123,912
15. Jeffrey B. Spies, financial director, $123,912
16. David H. Dekay, assistant police chief manager, $123,841
17. Cedric F. Gordon, assistant police chief manager, $123,841
18. Luke C. Williams Jr., assistant police chief manager, $123,837
19. Kim Streeter, assistant city attorney, $122,900
20. Joseph P. Patner, assistant city attorney, $121,019
21. Milton Albert Galbraith Jr., assistant city attorney, $118,531
22. Gary Cornwell, human resources director, $118,013
23. Timothy M. Finch, budget director, $118,013
24. Joseph J. Kubicki III, transportation planning director, $118,013
25. Sherry K. McBee, recreation director, $113,013
26. George B. Cassady, water resources director, $117,115
27. Julie D. Weston, development service director, $116,345
28. Jose R. Quintana, city architect manager, $116,000
29. Pamela D. Cichon, assistant city attorney, $114,800
30. Richard B. Bagley, assistant city attorney, $112,830
31. Deborah Glover-Pearcey, assistant city attorney, $112,550
32. William E. Jolley, fire marshal, assistant chief, $111,265
33. James O. Wimberly Jr., assistant fire chief, $111,265
34. Jane E. Wallace, assistant city attorney, $111,093
35. Jacqueline M. Kovilaritch, assistant city attorney, $109,440
36. Carl J. Blahut, stormwater/traffic operations director, $109,146
37. Ralph R. Bulger, billing & collections director, $109,146
38. Kevin M. Dunn, development coordinator director, $109,146
39. Steven K. Leavitt, engineering assistant director, $109,146
40. Louis S. Moore, purchasing & materials management director, $109,146
41. Robert H. Turner, fleet management director, $109,146
42. Dwight D. Wilson, water resources assistant director, $109,146
43. Joseph F. Zeoli, CDA administration &finance director, $109,146
44. David S. Goodwin, economic development director, $108,128
45. Bruce E. Grimes, real estate & property management director, $107,775
46. Bradley H. Scott, city auditor director, $107,000
47. Benjamin F. Shirley, sanitation director, $106,842
48. John R. Gardner, police major manager, $105,375
49. David W. Hawkins, police major manager, $105,375
50. Jeffrey A. Rink, executive assistant to chief manager, $105,375
51. John R. Thompson, police major manager, $105,375
52. Eric L. Wells, police major manager, $105,375
53. Elizabeth D. Herendeen, marketing director, $105,000
54. John J. Armbruster, assistant information & community service director, $102,899
55. Melanie J. Bevan, police major manager, $101,847
56. Mary S. Gaines, library director, $100,813
57. Joshua Johnson, housing & community development director, $100,457
58. Susan P. Ajoc, neighborhood partnership director, $100,311
59. Robert A. Danielson, marketing assistant director, $100,311
60. Jeffery G. Hollis, golf course director, $100,311
61. Shrimatee H. Ojah-Maharaj, Midtown economic development assistant director, $100,311
62. John F. Parks, technical support manager, $100,311
63. Sharon D. Welch, systems development manager, $100,311
64. Donnie Williams, police major manager, $100,094