Overtime not the only way for employees to pad paychecks

Some get incentives, while others cash out accrued leave




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photo20 highest-paid public employees in Clark County for 2010
photoClark County fire personnel who earned $30,000 or more above their base pay in 2010.

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The Columbian analyzed the data of the top 20 highest-paid employees in 2010 at 33 agencies across Clark County. While fire district personnel were the most frequent earners of a salary above their base pay — driven by overtime — numerous other public employees also made more than their base last year.

Many public schoolteachers, along with university and community college professors, earned thousands more than outlined in their nine-month contracts by teaching summer school, which is driven by student demand.

Others, who quit or retired, made money by cashing out years of accrued leave. Some top administrators pulled in incentives and car allowances.

Here’s a breakdown of some examples of how a public employee can make more than his or her base salary besides overtime:

• Robert Bates, professor, Washington State University Vancouver: Total 2010 compensation of $220,257; $60,257 above his base pay of $160,000.

Bates was the provost, or chief academic officer, at the main campus in Pullman until a new university president decided to hire a new provost and Bates was moved to the Vancouver campus as a professor, said Alice Smethurst, WSU director of payroll services, tax compliance and benefit reporting.

In an agreement with the president, he earned the provost’s salary through July 2010, accounting for $42,480 of his extra pay, Smethurst said. The balance, more than $17,700, came from teaching summer school.

• Mark Beam, Clark County senior deputy prosecuting attorney: Total 2010 compensation of $130,389; $53,612 above his base pay of $76,777.

Beam would have earned $115,164 in his role as an attorney, but he left his job of more than 28 years in August 2010, therefore earning a base pay of just $76,777, Clark County Human Resources Director Francine Reis said. With more than 28 years with the county, his leave payouts totaled more than $53,260.

• Larry Paulson, executive director, Port of Vancouver: Total 2010 compensation of $221,444; $55,844 more than his base pay of $165,600.

Paulson got a $6,000 car allowance in 2010, and more than $2,700 of his life insurance policy is considered taxable income, Port of Vancouver spokeswoman Theresa Wagner said.

But the biggest portion making up that difference is what’s known as a 457(f), or a deferred compensation package. As an incentive to keep him at the port, it pays Paulson $23,500 a year if he is working there at a certain date. In 2010, Paulson received two year’s worth of deferred compensation (April 2008 to April 2009, and April 2009 to April 2010), for a total of $47,130. Using the annual deferred compensation amount, Paulson earned $197,879 in 2010, Wagner said.

—Andrea Damewood