PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Just last week, Chelsa Wagner was sworn in as the new Allegheny County Controller, but she will already be the recipient of a very hefty raise.
She and Treasurer John Weinstein have accepted a salary bump of more than $20,000 each without any public review or scrutiny — only a legal opinion from the county solicitor saying they could and county council kept in the dark.
“Well, Andy this is the first time hearing about it – you drew it to my attention,” said Allegheny County Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh. “We were not apprised of this at county council.”
With the pay increase, John Weinstein’s salary will jump from $66,500 to $89,904 – an increase of 35 percent.
Chelsa Wagner will get the same. The controller salary also jumps from $65,500 to $89,904 — the same $23,400 increase.
The solicitor’s opinion also said Allegheny County Sheriff Bill Mullen was entitled to a similar increase, but Mullen turned it down and will continue to make the $64,000 a year.
Mullen declined to appear on camera and would say only it was not the right time for him to be taking a salary increase. He said his budget is tight and he didn’t want to take a raise and then have to lay off a sheriff’s deputy.
Neither Weinstein nor Wagner was in their offices today and neither returned phone calls, but Wagner did issue this statement defending the salary increase.
In the statement Wagner says all elected officials are entitled to an annual cost of living increase and neither the controller nor the treasurer had accepted one since 1999.
And even by taking that increase retroactively, the two officials still make considerably less than the district attorney and other county officials who make more than $100,000 a year.
But the only things authorizing the increases are payroll orders signed by Deputy Controller Guy Tumolo who signed them just before New Year’s Eve on December 30th.
Sheehan: “Is this like a backdoor raise?”
Tumolo: “I don’t think so. It’s been many years since they’ve had a raise.”
But Heidelbaugh says the raise does appear to have come under cover of night.
“It’s exactly situations like this where it’s found out,” she said. “It’s found out later by a reporter. There isn’t full transparency and this is what causes people to lose faith in their elected officials.”