By Mark Lisheron
Beginning in 2008, with the economy and unemployment shooting past one another in the wrong directions, some of the highest paid public employees in Texas were enjoying banner years.
A partial review of local public salaries by Sunshine Review found the number of Tarrant County employees making at least $150,000 a year climbed from 13 in 2008 to 18 in 2009 to 27 in 2010.
In 2008, nine employees of the city of San Antonio made $150,000 or more. The figure doubled over the next two years, and in 2011 22 employees topped $150,000 a year.
Sunshine Review, a national nonprofit organization that analyzes and advocates for government transparency, collected salary data for 19 governmental bodies in Texas. They include the cities of Houston and San Antonio; Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Tarrant counties; the Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston independent school districts; and eight law enforcement and fire departments.
The study includes data showing sharp increases in salaries for high-ranking officials with the Texas Department of Public Safety. A consultant paid $1 million by the state recommended the pay increases, in part, to slow turnover in the department, according to Sunshine Review.
Over the past two years the number of DPS employees making at least $100,000 went from 11 to 31. The salary of Lamar Beckworth, deputy director for DPS, went up by 25 percent, five division chiefs got pay boosts of 21 percent and the emergency management director is making 43 percent more than two years ago.