Owens gives merit pay to agency heads

County Executive Janet S. Owens has put a little something extra in the paychecks of county department heads and her top advisers - "pay-for-performance" awards ranging from $2 to $7,216.

The awards were presented as one-time bonuses or as raises. It is the first time Owens has given the discretionary awards to her Cabinet-level county employees. The average salary increase was 5.2 percent, or $4,432. The average one-time award was $3,721.


The last time department heads and advisers received the awards was in 1997, under County Executive John G. Gary, said John M. Morris, county spokesman.

"A lot of it depends on budget circumstances and economic times," he said yesterday.


All of the 17 Cabinet-level county officials received raises in their paychecks Friday, but only six received lump-sum bonuses.

In terms of raises, Spurgeon R. Eismeier, who oversees the Central Services Division, made out the best. Eismeier, whose division runs county garages, manages its vehicle fleet and oversees purchasing, got a 10 percent raise, increasing his salary by $7,216, to $79,375.

Public Works Director John M. Brusnighan and the county's chief administrative officer, Jerome W. Klasmeier, received 6 percent raises.

The salary of Brusnighan, whose department called for once-a-week trash collection in August to encourage residents to recycle, climbed to $107,324 from $101,249. Klasmeier's salary rose by $6,115 to $108,034.

County officials who deal with permits and senior citizens also fared well. Department of Inspections and Permits Director Walter N. Chitwood's salary went from $88,241 to $93,535. Office of Aging Director Virginia Thomas received a $4,774 boost to $84,334.

The biggest one-time bonuses went to the heads of the county police and fire departments. In addition to a $389 salary increase, Police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan received a lump-sum award of $4,853. Shanahan's new salary is $97,066 a year.

Fire Chief Roger C. Simonds also received a lump-sum bonus of $4,853 and a $2 salary increase - from $97,064 to $97,066 - putting him at the top of his pay scale.

"If Ms. Owens thinks enough of him to give him a bonus, I'm sure he's deserving of it," Division Chief John M. Scholz, county fire spokesman, said of his boss' award.


Gary implemented the one-time bonus system in 1996 to reward employees who did a good job during the year but are at the top of their pay scales and ineligible for raises. Department heads and advisers were eligible for a percentage increase if they had not reached the top of their pay scale.