Richmond’s highest paid employee makes even more than you know

Posted at 4:00 PM, Jul 10, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-11 08:20:51-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Richmond Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall is the highest paid government official in the City of Richmond.

He is paid a $178,000 salary, according to city records. That is more than Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones' $125,000 salary. It is more than Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's $175,000 salary.

But Marshall took home a lot more than his publicly-disclosed salary in both 2011 and 2012.

CBS 6 investigative reporter Catie Beck uncovered Marshall received tens of thousands of dollars in bonus money and deferred compensation those years.

That extra money came from your tax dollars and was approved by Mayor Jones, Beck found out. So she went to City Hall to question Mayor Jones about the about the extra earnings.

Most taxpayers would expect to foot the bill for filling potholes, improving schools or clearing debris after a storm. But for many Richmonders, there's one tab this year they likely never knew they picked up.

This past February, Marshall got a bonus check for nearly $26,700. The extra earnings were never announced to the public and city council members were never told about it.

“If people are getting bonuses, we need to know about it,” said council member Jonathan Baliles.

"This is the first I'm hearing about it," said council member Reva Trammell.

Marshall has been on the job about four years. His base salary of $178,000 doesn't include an additional $22,000 a year Marshall gets in a yearly one-time payment called a deferred compensation.

It also doesn’t include any bonuses he receives. Marshall’s employment deal also includes a city credit card, a housing allowance for up to one year, and seven-months pay should there be a severance.

Some find the agreement excessive for a mid-sized city government.

"I'm against any type of bonuses for public sector employees," said Dave Schwartz

Schwartz works for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative watchdog group. Schwartz contends that across the country local governments are acting recklessly with taxpayer money.

"It's not fair to the taxpayers, it's not fair to the people who are paying his salary," said Schwartz.

Marshall's nearly $50,000 in extra earnings on top of his salary this year is especially unfair to city employees who haven't seen a raise in six years due to tight budget times, Trammell said.  They will see a raise in October, of two-percent.

"Yes, they're going to have a right to be upset, yes they are because they work hard too,” said Trammell.

But Trammell argued that Marshall is doing a good job as CAO and in this scenario it's the giver not the taker that is to blame. The giver in this case was Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones.

"Would we turn that down? No we wouldn't. Don't blame Mr. Marshall, blame Mr. Mayor for doing this and why did he do this?" said Trammell.

Baliles echoed the same sentiment.

"If he deserves a bonus more than what his contract says we should at least know why," said Baliles.

CBS 6 wanted to take that question to Mayor Jones along with a few others.  We were curious to know why Jones amended Marshall's initial employment offer after just a year on the job.

Jones more than doubled Marshall's deferred compensation amount from $10,000 a year to $22,000, the maximum allowable by law.

We also noticed that in Marshall's job descriptions it states he's responsible for retaining highly competent executives to run city agencies.

Currently there are at least five known departments of about 20 in the city that do not have permanent leadership in place. The Department of Social Services, Justice Services, Human Resources, Information Technology and Finance all have interim directors.

The interim director of finance has been in place for nearly two years.

With several days advanced notice the mayor's office agreed to a sit down interview with CBS 6 to discuss Marshall’s bonus, but then on the day of the scheduled interview sent an email.

"We want to respect personnel procedures, and it is not our practice to publicly discuss one individual's personnel arrangements," it began, and was written by Tammy Hawley, Press Secretary for the Mayor.

Her comments were  followed by a statement from the mayor saying Marshall's bonus was an effort to bring his salary in line with other surrounding areas that pay significantly more.

"I believe that these are appropriate actions that any CEO would take to stabilize leadership, provide continuity, and to keep our city moving forward," said Jones.

Schwartz said  that doesn't excuse the lack of oversight and believes the taxpayers should be the shareholders of this operation.

"They're there to watch out for the little guy, they're there to watch out for the taxpayer and they’re not doing it," said Schwartz