2 NEWS Investigates: The $100K club

$100K Club. (WDTN Photo)
$100K Club. (WDTN Photo)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – $2.9 billion of Ohio tax money went to pay the salaries of state employees last year.

During a 2 NEWS investigation into the State’s $100K club, or the employees making more than $100,000 a year, they uncovered some making more in overtime then their salaries.

The average family in Ohio makes around $47,000 a year.  I found more than 2,000 state employees are each bringing home more than twice that amount and some of those top earners made more in overtime than their actually salary.

A research staff member, a nurse and a chaplain.  You pay the salary of every state employee and some positions are making more than others such as a research staff member, nurse and chaplain. They’re members of the $100K club.

“This is our money going directly into their pockets,” said Greg Lawson

Lawson is with the political watchdog group, The Buckeye Institute. They keep an eye on pubic policy and how many tax dollars go to pay state employees every year.

“We have a right as taxpayers to make sure things make sense,” explained Lawson.

2 NEWS Investigates obtained the list of pay for every person who works for the state and found the highest paid employee might surprise you.

You may think the Governor and Attorney General would top the list, they’re powerful and well known, but they don’t even come close to the psychiatrist who made more than 376,000 last year.  2 NEWS Investigates found more than half of that was in overtime pay.

“This isn’t about beating up on public employees, who are doing their jobs. They are just doing what they are asked to do. We get all of that, but it’s about managing the resources because this isn’t the private sector,” said Lawson.

Search the database to see members of the $100k Club.
Search members of the $100k Club.

Lawson says most employees who work for the state get better benefits then those who work for private companies so they’re expected to make a more modest salary in return.

That psychiatrist with the state’s biggest paycheck works for the department with some of the highest paid employees in all of Ohio.

So, we asked the The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services why some of their employees are making more in overtime than their salaries.

They declined an interview and issued a statement that reads in part “Patients benefit from the consistency and continuity of care provided by doctors who follow patient progress beyond a standard 40 hour week. As a result OhioMHAS incurs after-hour costs at our hospitals; however, the Department manages these fixed costs in the most fiscally-responsible way for Ohio’s taxpayers.”

We dug a little deeper to find out what exactly a psychiatrist does to earn more overtime than their salary.

“These illnesses are disabling; they are troubling. It’s horrible to have a mental illness,” said Dr. Mark Smith

Dr. Smith with Mental Health Services in Springfield said a state psychiatrists’ job is not 9 to 5.

“If you work for an agency or work for a hospital that hospitalizes people then there are issues of taking call and being available 24/7.” said Dr. Smith.

Lawson said it comes back to the amount of money the state is spending on overtime.

We found it’s not just an issue with one department.  While the total payroll costs declined in Ohio last year, the amount spent on overtime went up by 6 million dollars last year.

Lawson said those managing the budgets need to weigh the costs of hiring additional employees.

“Public employees do a lot of very good things, but they are public employees. They are completely compensated by tax payer dollars,” said Lawson.

Another reason psychiatrists may be making more overtime is because they’re needed.  Dr. Smith tells me more people are seeking help for their disorders than ever before.

If you’re curious to find out what state employees made the 100 K club we’ve built a searchable database for you with all the information.

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