On Your Side Investigation: A look at raises given to some of B’ham mayor’s staff

Some appointed employees nearly doubled their salary in four years
Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 10:02 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin campaigned on transparent government and reducing unnecessary spending. In his second term, we wanted to see if he’s still making good on those promises; specifically surrounding staff salaries.

In 2017, Woodfin went toe-to-toe with then-Mayor William Bell, calling out his top-heavy office during a mayoral debate hosted by WBHM.

“The mayor’s office has 52 administrative assistants. There is not one business owner in this room that has 52 administrative assistants, that doesn’t exist,” Woodfin explained. “The mayor’s office has 101 people budgeted for this year’s fiscal budget to the tune of more than $10 million. So let’s cut the mayor’s office because no mayor needs 52 administrative assistants. No mayor needs 101 people to serve at the pleasure of the mayor. That is an abuse and negligence of tax dollars, period.”

Woodfin’s first budget, presented a month after he took office in 2017 accounted for 61 administrative assistants, 96 total employees and allocated more than $9 million for the mayor’s office.

Fast-forward to the current fiscal year, and Woodfin budgeted more than $10 million for his office, but with only 39 administrative assistants and 57 total employees.

We wanted to know if Woodfin had downsized his staff.

In April, WBRC filed an open records request for the salaries for Woodfin’s appointed employees dating back to 2018; the people he hand picked to help run the city.

While the number of administrative assistants budgeted for the mayor’s office has gone down since 2018, the total number across all departments has gone up to as many as 56 in 2021.

In fact, administrative assistants account for roughly half of Woodfin’s appointed staff since he took office. As for the total number of appointed employees, that’s grown too.

City of Birmingham Communication Director Rick Journey says the title of mayor’s administrative assistant is a designation given by the Jefferson County Personnel Board.

“These appointees represent a range of directors, deputy directors and professional staff in multiple departments, not exclusively the mayor’s office,” Journey confirmed. “Many of these are merit employees who have been appointed leadership roles within their departments.”

The salaries for appointed employees topped out at more than $12 million in 2021 and 2022.

Of the 52 appointed employees who’ve been with Woodfin since 2018, 9% have nearly doubled their salary. Nearly 25% have increased their pay by 50% and more than half by at least 20%.

The highest paid appointed employee: the mayor’s administrative assistant at almost $185,000.

While the mayor declined our interview request, Journey explained the raises are a result of a city-wide salary assessment and various promotions.

“The Department of Human Resources has worked aggressively city-wide to address salaries to ensure they are equitable and representative of the guidelines of the Jefferson County Personnel Board while being competitive in the marketplace in order to attract and retain the best talent possible to serve the people of Birmingham,” Journey added.

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