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Editorial: Generous raises to ag employees were out of line

Nov. 20, 2012 @ 11:53 PM

It was a nice gesture that longtime West Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Gus Douglass handed out pay raises to dozens of his employees before he leaves office in January -- at least from the employees' perspectives.

The unfortunate part is that Douglass, who is retiring after 11 terms in the office, was using taxpayers' money for what appear to be parting gifts to those employees.

Altogether, 71 Department of Agriculture employees received raises totaling $206,349, according to a recent report in The Charleston Gazette. That's an average of slightly more than $2,900 for each, although some received much more than that and some got considerably less. For example, 13 administrators and top officials got annual raises of $5,000 or more.

In many cases, these were not miniscule raises percentage-wise either. At least 10 employees got increases amounting to more than 10 percent, with one approaching a 25 percent raise.

The size of many of these raises, most of which became effective in mid-August, suggests that sound fiscal discipline was not a consideration -- something taxpayers should expect from their elected officials.

The move also flies in the face of stated concerns by the state's top officials that West Virginia's government faces some trying budget challenges in the years ahead. Being more responsible with the public's money should be a top priority for all state officials, no matter whether they are retiring or not.

Moves like this only increase the public's resentment of government, particularly when workers in the public sector rarely see such sizable increases in their pay.

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