Gov. Paterson has secretly granted raises of as much as 46 percent to more than a dozen staffers at a time when he has asked 130,000 state workers to give up 3 percent pay hikes because of the state's fiscal crisis, The Post has learned.The poor guys are so hemmed in by ethics requirements and the close watch of a cynical public that they can barely make a move without dodging flack.
The startling pay hikes, costing about $250,000 annually, were granted after the governor's "emergency" declaration in August of a looming fiscal crisis that required the state to cut spending and impose a "hard" hiring freeze.The poor guys work their butts off, then are made suspect by the rare pol who actually does do something wrong - as if the behavior of a Rod Blagojevich is the norm rather than the rare Chicago Exception that we know it to be.
One raise was approved as recently as last month - when Paterson claimed the budget deficit had reached an unprecedented $15.5 billion.They face the indignity of being accused of using their power to benefit insiders and close associates when anyone who knows them knows that all they care about is doing the people's business.
Paterson's top aide, William Cunningham, a one-time law partner of the governor's father, Basil, saw his pay jump 5 percent to $178,500 - just $500 less than Paterson himself - from $170,000 on Nov. 7, after he was promoted from a temporary "acting" secretary to permanent.
If someone is your friend, does that mean they don't deserve to earn a living wage?
Charlotte Hitchcock, one of Cunningham's deputies and a personal friend of the governor's, received an $18,000, or 11.25 percent, raise on Dec. 22. While a press release said she was promoted from deputy secretary to "chief of staff" and "director of financial regulation," it made no mention of a higher salary.When you really think about it, it's hard to imagine why anyone bothers running for public office anymore.
Cassie Prugh, a confidential assistant, was given a 46 percent pay hike in late November, raising her annual salary to $125,000 from $85,721, while Gaurav Vasisht, an assistant counsel, received a 6 percent, $7,427 increase in December, bringing his salary to $130,279.Even worse, it's hard to figure how they can get anyone to work for them.
Brendan Fitzgerald, a special office assistant, received a 21 percent, or $15,737, pay hike only last month, bringing his salary to $90,000, while Michael Deloach, another confidential assistant, saw his pay leap 29 percent, or $18,200, to $80,000 in August.What with all the unfair scrutiny and speculation.
Disclosure of the secret pay hikes comes as Paterson is under attack for spending well over $20,000 in state funds on a four-day stay for himself and several aides during President Obama's inaugural last month, and for planning a state-funded junket to Davos, Switzerland, which he canceled only after his plans became public.How exactly to you expect a guy to run the government?
Paterson, in his budget proposal outlined in December, demanded that state workers who belong to the Civil Service Employees Association and the Public Employee Federation forgo negotiated, 3 percent pay hikes that would kick in April 1 or face massive layoffs.