RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory's administration has released the salaries of all the workers in his office several days after The Associated Press requested details for some employees' pay.
Officials released the salary details of 38 Governor's Office workers late Monday — more information than what was initially sought by the AP — and said the figures show he's on track to spend less there than his predecessor, Democrat Beverly Perdue.
The new Governor's Office initially declined last week to immediately provide the salaries for three workers but said they would be released when the office was fully staffed. The pay information, which state law says is available to the public, has been routinely provided by other administrations.
The data show only one employee — chief of staff Thomas Stith —making more than McCrory, whose $141,265 annual salary is set in state law. Stith, a former Durham city council member, makes $151,000 annually, but that's 8 percent less than what Perdue chief of staff Britt Cobb made. McCrory's office said Cobb's salary was $164,572.
McCrory said Stith is an integral part of running state government and moving his agenda forward. The new governor quipped Monday at an informal meeting with hundreds of state employees that he's surrounding himself with people smarter than him.
"This guy right here ... he is really running the day-to-day operations of a $20 billion operation," McCrory said while pointing to Stith at a Jan. 18 Martin Luther King Jr. observance attended by state workers. "It's because of the content of his character, and because he's extremely smart and he's a good man."
McCrory press secretary Crystal Feldman said the hirings of Stith and a few other employees show the new governor is pinching pennies when it comes to his own staff. For example, policy adviser Tony Almeida is making $135,000 annually, while his predecessor made $155,848.
"It's his goal to spend less than Gov. Perdue and he's made a concerted effort to do so, and so far the new hires have been under," Feldman said. On Tuesday, Feldman couldn't immediately provide a commensurate list of salaries for all 38 workers in similar positions in the Perdue administration.
Feldman said she didn't know how many more people beyond the 38 — 36 paid fully by the Governor's Office and two paid partially — would be hired. Perdue's office had 70 employees early in her term in 2009.
State law requires agencies to maintain personnel records, including name, current position, salary and other information. The person holding those records "shall permit them to be inspected and examined and copies thereof made by any person during regular business hours," the law says.
North Carolina Press Association counsel Mike Tadych said Tuesday the desire of a state agency to delay the release of personnel data until all workers are included is irrelevant to what the law says. "If someone is hired, then this information as a matter of law is a public record" and shouldn't be held back, Tadych said.
McCrory's office said it's committed to transparency, which the governor ran on during the 2012 campaign.
"We have followed the letter of North Carolina law," Feldman said Tuesday.
As for the three hires initially requested, McCrory's office said Deputy Policy Adviser on Jobs and the Economy Blannie Cheng will earn $85,500 a year; Feldman is making $78,000; and deputy communications director Ricky Diaz will receive $62,000 annually.
Other staff members making more than $100,000 include chief legal counsel Bob Stephens and communications director Chris Walker, both of whom make $139,000; former Rep. Fred Steen, McCrory's legislative director, at $126,000; and boards and commissions director Charles Duckett at $105,000.
The document also shows executive chef David Gaydeski makes $76,912 and former Rep. Trudi Walend is now director of the Governor's Western Office and makes $50,000.
McCrory set salaries for his Cabinet secretaries at roughly $6,000 or $13,000 higher than those set by the Legislature for Perdue's secretaries, which are separate from the Governor's Office. The General Assembly gave the new governor authority to raise those salaries at his discretion but provided no additional money for salary bumps. McCrory has said the modest pay raises helped him recruit talent to run large departments.