Sen. Phil Berger speaks on power shift in NC government
Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore have seen a lot of turnover on their staffs since 2017, but some of the staffers who stuck around have been rewarded with pay increases of 20 to 50 percent.
The NC Insider compared current salary records for the president pro tem’s office and speaker’s office with records from January 2017, at the beginning of the last biennium. The records show pay increases varying significantly among staffers who have kept the same job titles for the past two years.
By contrast, most state employees received a $1,000 raise in 2017 and a 2 percent raise in 2018.
The biggest raise went to one of Moore’s policy advisors, Lewis King, who saw his pay jump 50 percent from 2017 to an annual salary of $85,672.
His raise was larger than those granted to two other employees who were in their jobs in 2017: communications director Joseph Kyzer received a 12 percent raise to $75,900, and director of boards, commissions and constituent services Julia Lisella received a 13 percent raise to $75,789.
Asked about King’s salary increase, Kyzer said the advisor’s “role has expanded considerably the last two years into working on major budget matters and covering a wide variety of legislative policy including being the Speaker’s primary advisor for environmental, regulatory, and energy issues. ... Lewis King is one of the longest serving policy staffers in the North Carolina House and has been here for nearly six years dating back to Speaker Thom Tillis’ tenure. He advises legislative leaders on a broad variety of state government sectors, led disaster recovery and regulatory reform legislation, and has immense institutional expertise about state policy and the legislative process.”
Berger’s office has six staffers who have been in their roles since early 2017. Three of them saw their pay increase 16 to 30 percent, while three others had pay increases of less than 5 percent.
The biggest increase went to executive assistant Darrell Malcolm, whose pay rose 30 percent to $100,621. Research assistant and paralegal Kolt Ulm increased 22 percent to $81,600. And research assistant and paralegal David “Graham” Whitaker increased 16.3 percent to $45,900.
Meanwhile, research assistant and paralegal Patricia Berger (Sen. Berger’s wife) received a 4.6 percent raise, legislative clerk Wanda Shivers received a 4.6 percent raise, and deputy chief of staff for policy Erica Shrader received a 3 percent raise.
Asked if the employees with bigger raises had seen changes in job responsibilities, Berger spokesman Pat Ryan said “we can’t comment on personnel matters involving specific employees. In general, we increase salaries to reflect additional job responsibilities, more prominent roles, and to retain talented employees, as would any prudent employer.”
Overall, Berger’s total salary budget increased more than Moore’s between January 2017 and January 2019.
Moore’s staff salaries currently total $1.09 million, a 4.4 increase from 2017. Berger’s staff salaries total $1.25 million, an increase of 16.6 percent since 2017. Berger has a total of 16 staffers, up from 15 two years ago, while Moore has 14, excluding interns. Ryan said the salary budget increase in Berger’s office is because of the various merit raises and “because we have more employees today compared to the last time you looked into this matter.”
Berger has six staffers who earn more than $100,000, while Moore has three.