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State Paid 1,033 Workers Over $100,000 Last Year : Government: Some put in extra shifts or got onetime payments, list shows. Average salary is $42,000 a year.

November 23, 1995|PAUL JACOBS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — A total of 1,033 state employees earned more than $100,000 in salary and cash benefits last year, including 244 who had incomes higher than the state's top boss, Gov. Pete Wilson.

A 1994 payroll list prepared by the state controller's office shows that the highest-paid employee was a 78-year-old retired USC psychiatry professor who holds down two state jobs.

An unrepentant workaholic by his own description, Dr. Irving A. Matzner was paid $196,356 in 1994 by the Department of Developmental Services for his work at Camarillo Developmental Center and by the Department of Corrections, where he treats parolees at outpatient clinics.

In a recent interview, psychiatrist Matzner analyzed his own, unflagging devotion to work. "I'm a hypomanic personality. . . . I have too much energy. I'm married too much to my profession."

The top-pay summary--compiled from the payroll records of 250,000-plus state employees who are paid by the state controller--lists the gross earnings of individuals as reported to the Internal Revenue Service. The list does not include workers paid separately by the independent University of California.

An examination of the list, obtained by The Times under the Public Records Act, shows:

* Many government workers were able to vastly improve on their base salaries through overtime, cash bonuses and lump sum vacation payments.

* Although people might assume that the state's top salary would go to Wilson, who makes $114,286 a year, the top salary on the list last year went to Barry A. Munitz, the Cal State University chancellor, who was paid $174,996.

* Workers eligible for overtime can sometimes make considerably more than their bosses.

* Two state employees who saved the state millions of dollars with suggestions each got more than $100,000 in bonuses for their ideas.

Yet earning $100,000 is still the great exception in government service. Most state workers fall far below that mark, earning an average of $42,000, according to the governor's budget figures. And the average salary grew just 7.1% during Wilson's first four years in office.

The number of employees with base salaries at or above $100,000 has probably risen very little over the past four years, said David J. Tirapelle, director of the Department of Personnel Administration. He acknowledged that the $100,000 figure is a psychological barrier for governmental entities and argued that local governments have been more comfortable pushing through that level than the state.

"A $100,000 salary is like reaching the 5,000 level on the Dow Jones [industrial average]," he said. "It's a threshold." The top salaries tend to hover around it, except in the California State University and University of California systems, which long ago broke through, he said.

(All the chancellors and presidents of the two university systems earn more than $100,000, and highly specialized doctors at UC campuses earn several hundred thousand dollars, officials say.)

Tirapelle said many department heads in state government saw their salaries drop below $100,000, beginning in 1991, when they followed the example of the governor and took a 5% cut in their statutory salaries.

But local governments in California, he said, "have long since blown through that." As a result, he noted, top administrators in counties and cities frequently earn more than the governor of California.

Tirapelle is also concerned that state employees are able to make more than their bosses. For instance, second on the state's top pay list is a San Quentin physician who received $190,038 last year.

"I don't think that a doctor working at San Quentin should be earning more than the director of the Department of Corrections, who is in charge of 26 or 28 institutions, upward of 130,000 inmates and 30,000 employees," Tirapelle said.

He said he was not surprised by the list but added that he would like to see a more rational system that gives the highest pay to those at the top of the bureaucracy.

Indeed, among those making more than their bosses were correctional sergeants who doubled their salaries with overtime pay transporting prisoners around the state. And there were college professors making more than campus presidents by teaching summer and night school on top of their regular loads.

Others making more than $100,000 were lower-paid people whose incomes were boosted by onetime cash settlements from disputes with their public agencies or by bonuses for making money-saving suggestions.

There was the Youth Authority schoolteacher who won a claim for retroactive overtime, a carpenter awarded four years back pay at Folsom State Prison, and a mental hospital's pharmacist paid a bonus for saving the state more than $1 million a year.

Others climbed onto the list of those earning $100,000 or more only when they retired and converted accumulated vacation time to cash in a sizable lump sum payment.

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