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Nearly 200 L.A. County employees took home more than 250K in compensation last year

October 4, 2010 |  6:34 pm

Nearly 200 Los Angeles County employees earned more than a quarter of a million dollars in 2009, according to a list of the county’s top earners released late Monday in response to a public records act request from The Times.

Many of the 199 workers named on the list included physicians, county firefighters and a handful of top sheriff’s employees, as well as well-known county leaders such as Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley ($345,587) and Sheriff Lee Baca ($325,664). Both Cooley and Baca earned a substantial amount of compensation listed as "other earnings," in Cooley's case about $53,000 and nearly $47,000 for Baca.

The Times requested the base salary, overtime and “other earnings” for county employees whose total annual earnings exceeded $250,000. “Other earnings” can include bonuses for special skills or responsibilities or unused money for benefits that can be cashed out as taxable income, among other things. County officials were not immediately able to detail what type of additional payments went to Cooley and Baca.

No. 5 on the list was the county’s chief executive, William T Fujioka, who made $403,140 in 2009. Four physicians earned more: Elaine Yang, a senior physician at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center ($430,909); Christine Holschneider, a chief physician at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center ($423,533); Gail Anderson Jr., a medical director at Harbor-UCLA ($421,648); and John McDonald, a chief physician at Harbor-UCLA ($413,807).

Ninety-nine of the 199 employees made overtime. Seventy-one of them made more than $10,000 in overtime in 2009.

Four employees –- all pilots for the county Fire Department -- made more in overtime than they did in base salary.

They are Charles Moreno, who earned $153,324.93 in overtime over a base salary of $140,504.76; Brian Novak, who earned $156,812.81 in overtime on top of a base salary of $125,769.24; Thomas Short, who earned $144,862.91 in overtime on top of a base salary of $140,504.76; and Patrick Stefanski, who earned $137,337.88 in overtime on top of a base salary of $127,633.08.

In all, of the 30 workers who made more than $80,000 in overtime, 22 work for the Fire Department, four work for county public hospitals, two were psychiatrists for the mental health department, and two were physician specialists for the Sheriff’s Department.

Thomas Tyrrell, a principal deputy county counsel for the county counsel’s office, said many Fire Department members who made the list worked on the Station fire between Aug. 26 and Oct. 16, 2009. Some of their earnings, Tyrrell said, were reimbursed by Sacramento and Washington.

Other workers who made more than $100,000 in overtime are Joseph Mirkovich Jr., a mental heath psychiatrist ($122,665.82); and Lawrence Laughlin, a sheriff’s physician specialist ($117,992.64).

Many of the top earners were high-profile department chiefs and their top deputies. They include John Schunhoff, interim director of the Department of Health Services ($365,637); Jonathan Fielding, director of the Department of Public Health ($358,411); Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswara, chief medical examiner–coroner ($322,470); county Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman ($316,296); Public Defender Michael Judge ($304,231); Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center Chief Executive Pete Delgado ($293,015); Public Works Director Gail Farber ($268,130); Carol Meyer, chief network officer for the Department of Health Services ($260,586); Auditor-Controller Wendy Watanabe ($259,351); and Department of Children and Family Services Director Trish Ploehn ($257,624).

The list sent to The Times differs from one obtained by the L.A. Weekly and posted on its website  Sept. 28. Tyrrell said the list the L.A. Weekly printed includes accumulated vacation days held over from previous years, and therefore doesn’t reflect compensation for 2009. The Times also reviewed a copy of the list published by the L.A. Weekly.

The county counsel’s office had delayed the release of the information to The Times, saying it needed time to give all 100,000 county employees the opportunity to object to the release of their names for what they called “personal safety reasons” -- such as not wanting to reveal the workplace of a county employee to a stalker ex-spouse.

Although The Times’ request covered fewer than 200 employees, the county counsel’s office is surveying all workers because another news organization, the Contra Costa Times, filed a request to  identify salary information for all county employees.

The identities of all 199 county workers who earned more than $250,000 in 2009 were released by the county to The Times.

None of the five elected county supervisors made the list. They make $178,789.

See a complete list of the county's top earners: Los Angeles County employees compensated $250,000 and up

-- Rong-Gong Lin II