For most state workers, their last raise was $1,000 – far short of what their politically connected bosses just got last month.
On Jan. 1, Gov. Roy Cooper gave the members of his Cabinet pay raises that ranged from $13,000 to nearly $22,000 a year. None of them had yet been in the job for a full year.
The raises, which state public records confirmed, were first reported by Charlotte TV station WBTV.
All of Cooper’s Cabinet members now make more than the governor, who is paid $144,349 a year.
Cabinet secretaries are in charge of leading state agencies dedicated to issues like the environment, public safety, transportation and more. When Cooper hired his agency heads last year, he gave all but one of them salaries that were identical to what was earned by the people who held their jobs under former Gov. Pat McCrory. The one outlier, Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon, made significantly more than his predecessor.
Cooper also gave several of his top aides higher salaries than their McCrory-era counterparts, while others got slightly lower salaries. At the time, Cooper’s office defended the salary decisions, saying his Cabinet was the most diverse in state history and that the average Cabinet member had 22 years of experience.
To start 2018, all 10 people in Cooper’s Cabinet received raises of around 10 percent. And that’s in addition to other raises they received in their first year on the job.
The highest raise last month went to Trogdon, who got a $21,628 raise to a new salary of $217,980. He remains Cooper’s highest-paid Cabinet secretary.
But no one has gotten a larger total raise during Cooper’s first year in office than Mandy Cohen, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, whose salary rose by more than $50,000 in her first 11 months on the job. That includes a $17,500 raise last month. She now makes $192,500 a year.
Melody Hunter-Pillion, the spokeswoman for the state’s HR department, said Cohen’s salary increased last July to bring it up to what she should have been receiving from the start, but hadn’t been because of an oversight regarding Cohen’s credentials as a doctor.
“North Carolina has a history of paying medical doctors who head DHHS more than the state pays non-physicians in that post,” Hunter-Pillion said. “That salary component was not factored into Dr. Mandy Cohen’s original salary when she began her employment with the state.”
Another recipient of a raise last month was Eric Boyette, who leads the state’s Information Technology department and received a $16,746 raise to a new salary of $184,206. He started on the job last April, at a $166,460 salary.
Three other Cabinet secretaries were hired last year at a $138,040 annual salary – Tony Copeland (Department of Commerce), Susi Hamilton (Department of Natural and Cultural Resources) and Erik Hooks (Department of Public Safety).
Each has since received raises of nearly $15,000, including a $1,000 raise last summer along with the rest of state workers plus a $13,904 raise last month. They all now make $152,944 salaries.
The final four of Cooper’s Cabinet secretaries were hired at a $130,935 salary and have since received raises of more than $14,000 each.
They are Michael Regan (Department of Environmental Quality), Larry Hall (Department of Military and Veterans Affairs), Machelle Sanders (Department of Administration) and Ron Penny (Department of Revenue). Hall, Penny and Sanders now make $145,128, and Regan now makes $1 more than them.