Mayoral candidate Kathleen Ford says 70 city employees make more than $100,000; Politifact rules that Mostly True

St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Kathleen Ford thinks the city must have a cultural affairs manager and can find the money for the position if “fat” is cut from the city’s budget. The city eliminated its cultural affairs director position, saving the $75,000 annual salary.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times

St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Kathleen Ford thinks the city must have a cultural affairs manager and can find the money for the position if “fat” is cut from the city’s budget. The city eliminated its cultural affairs director position, saving the $75,000 annual salary.

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

Mayoral candidate Kathleen Ford says 70 city employees make more than $100,000; Politifact rules that Mostly True 05/30/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2009 4:36pm]

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