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Baltimore Police release body camera footage

A suspended police sergeant accused by the Baltimore police commissioner of “tarnishing the badge” was the city’s highest-paid employee during the last fiscal year.

Sgt. Ethan Newberg, a 24-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department, earned $260,775 in the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to data recently posted on Open Baltimore, the city’s open data website. Overtime more than doubled his base salary of $107,807.

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Newberg was charged in June with assault, false imprisonment and misconduct after he told fellow officers May 30 to arrest a bystander who criticized officers’ tactics as they detained another man. Body camera video shows Newberg chasing and grabbing the man, and later telling him: “Just go to jail and take your charge like a man.” He was suspended without pay.

“That officer is tarnishing the badge that we all wear,” Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said at the time.

In the previous fiscal year, Newberg ranked second on the list of highest-paid city employees, making $243,132.

Police officers have long ranked among the city’s highest earners due to overtime. Seven of the 10 highest-paid city employees have been police officers not only this year but also in 2017 and 2018. In 2016, it was eight out of 10.

But there’s some sign that the city’s police overtime spending may be easing. The police department’s total pay exceeded base salary by more than $40 million, down from the 2018 fiscal year, when the difference was $51 million. That suggests overtime costs, a longtime source of police spending, might be falling.

In addition to overtime, employees can earn income beyond base pay in other ways, including through promotions, stipends and bonuses.

Median pay for employees in the police department was $93,278, meaning half the employees earn more and half earn less.

The fire department had the second-highest payroll, with total compensation exceeding base salaries by more than $16 million. The median pay for fire department employees was $82,097.

At $275,000 a year, Harrison has the highest current base salary in the city — the first time on record a Baltimore police commissioner has been the highest salaried city employee. Harrison, who started in February, earned $100,961 before the fiscal year ended. Former police commissioner Darryl DeSousa, who resigned in May 2018 after federal prosecutors charged him with failing to file federal tax returns, made a base salary of $210,000 a year.

Harrison and his two new deputy commissioners, Daniel “Danny” Murphy and Michael Sullivan, who each make $195,000 a year, were the only police employees this fiscal year whose base salary ranked in the top 10, but overtime has long helped rank and file officers place well above their bosses at the top of the city’s highest-paid list.

The second-highest-paid employee after Newberg was Frank Johnson, the Baltimore IT director, who went on leave in September. Johnson, who was criticized for his leadership during the ransomware attack on city computers, earned $251,922 on a salary of $250,000 — the second-highest base salary in the city after Harrison.

Lester Davis, a spokesman for Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, could not confirm Johnson’s current status with the city.

The next-highest paid was William Harris Jr., a police sergeant who made $249,356 on a salary of $107,364. Harris was the city’s highest-paid employee in fiscal year 2018.

He was followed in the most recent fiscal year by police Lt. Thomas Mistysyn Jr., who earned $247,182 on a base salary of $122,049, and fire department employee Anthony Smith, who earned $243,747 on a base salary of $105,000.

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Democratic State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby was the sixth-highest paid, with a salary of $238,772.

Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young earned $127,984 on a salary of $184,832, nearly $10,000 more than what he earned as City Council president during the last fiscal year. Young’s salary has gone up twice in the 2019 fiscal year: on Jan. 1 as part of an automatic 2.5% salary bump for elected officials and more significantly in May, when he became mayor after serving in an acting capacity.

The data does not include two top earners who run organizations that are independent from the municipal government. City schools CEO Sonja Santelises makes a salary of $298,000 and Al Hutchinson, the head of the quasi-public tourism agency Visit Baltimore, made $260,135 in the 2018 fiscal year, according to tax filings.

Because it includes only city staffers who were employed as of June 30 this year, the data also excludes the earnings of former Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh (her annual salary was $185,000), who went on a leave of absence April 1 and resigned May 2 amid a growing scandal over her sales of a self-published children’s book series. Also missing are the earnings of six former Pugh aides, including her chief of staff.

To review the computer code that generated the analysis, go to bsun.md/balt-city-salaries-2019.

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