Overtime put some staffers over $100,000

CARSON CITY -- Fifty-four legislative staffers earned more than $100,000 as a result of overtime during the 2007 legislative session, including 18 who made more than the governor's own salary of $141,000.

The Legislative Counsel Bureau salaries came to light Tuesday, following criticism by Democratic lawmakers of Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons for giving big raises to his staff in tough economic times.

Some defended the legislative staff pay, including Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, who has criticized the governor for giving the raises when he is proposing 6 percent salary cuts for state employees and teachers.

"I'm not surprised at this effort to divert attention from the substantial pay raises," she said. "But it is important to remember that 2007 was a legislative session where our staff worked 18 hours a day for 120 days."

Gibbons' director of communications, whose own $110,000 salary came under fire, said members of the governor's staff also are expected to work overtime but don't get overtime pay.

"We are not begrudging them (legislative employees) their salaries in any way," said communications director Daniel Burns. "It just seems the spotlight is particularly intense on us, when it is not showing at all on the LCB and any other agency."

Six-figure salaries in the governor's office resulted from promotions and combining jobs for overall office savings. In the Legislative Counsel Bureau, pay rose as the workload increased during the session.

Top lawyers and fiscal analysts generally earn $30,000 to $50,000 in overtime payments during the odd-numbered years when the Legislature holds its 120-day regular session, said counsel bureau administrator Lorne Malkiewich. Base pay for top legislative staff members is $120,000 to $130,000 a year.

"It is a unique situation," said Malkiewich, who provided the pay information at a reporter's request Tuesday. "The legislative session is the time of the year when we must get things done even if it means working 80-hour weeks."

Topping the legislative pay scale was Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes, who made $218,392, including overtime, in 2007.

Erdoes has been known to work "ungodly hours," Malkiewich said, e-mailing legislators at 3 a.m. with answers to their questions.

Fiscal analysts Gary Ghiggeri and Mark Stevens made $180,803 and $168,548, respectively, that year, including overtime. Malkiewich earned $152,335.

Total pay for some legislative employees would have been higher, but they can take as much as three weeks off as comp time if they give up all or some of their overtime pay.

About 400 employees work for the Legislature during years with legislative sessions, including 70 or 80 part-time workers. The budget of the Legislative Counsel Bureau is just above $30 million.

None of Gibbons' staff members earn as much as the governor, according to salary information released last week by the governor's office. Top pay is earned by Josh Hicks, the governor's chief of staff, who gets $133,340. Fourteen of the 16 full-time members on Gibbons' staff received recent pay increases.

On Monday, state worker protests in Las Vegas and Carson City targeted Gibbons over the pay raises to his staff. Dennis Mallory, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 4041, said the union does not plan a similar protest against the Legislature.

"What is different is the governor's office increased pay dramatically over two years, while the Legislature established its pay over a long period of time."

Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Bernice Mathews, D-Reno, said she would look into what pay legislative staff members receive. Mathews triggered the controversy last week when she questioned the pay increases of Gibbons' staff.

Although critical of the governor's staff pay raises, Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said he had no comment on the legislative staff salaries.

Said Horsford: "We have much more important things to be concerned about."

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.