Are Public employees overpaid or under worked?

Federal employees, state employees, and other municipal employees are not doing too bad overall through this recession. Based on a variety of reports I’ve read it appears job loss in the public sector peaked at less than 1.75% while private sector jobs shrank by closer to 7%. (Government Employment Holding Steady While Private Sector Still Suffers) Also governmental employees make more than the private sector on average, especially Federal employees. “The average federal employee earns an annual salary almost 60% higher than the average private-sector employee $79,000 vs. $50,000.” (Government jobs: Bloated pay, benefits cost us all) We are all pretty aware of retirement benefits and other benefits offered by governmental jobs being far more generous than private sector ones. Let’s face it, most private sector employees no longer have any company sponsored retirement plan except for 401K’s with limited company matching funds. Pension programs promised by a number of US states are quickly going broke as are state, county and other municipal programs.

I don’t question the good work that a number of these employees do. A big portion of the work is under-appreciated and the employees suffer daily abuse in order for our needs as citizens to be met. However, when looking at the level of compensation that some governmental employees are receiving it’s hard to feel sorry for them. If you check the open records for State of Tennessee employees in a database like that published by the Tennessean, you can easily see that the average salary for the state employees of the Tennessee Arts Commission average almost $42,000. That is considerably higher than most private sector companies that I am familiar with.

The City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County have issues that bubbled to the surface in the last few months with a couple of high paid governmental employees. Both of them had side businesses they were running while on the city and county clock. Alan Knowles, a Public Works employee that is paid about $65,000 in salary (who knows how much including benefits) was suspended recently for 5 days because he was operating a separate business Dove Ministries Inc. during his Public Works job hours. (Three generations of Knowles family on county payroll) Missy Crutchfield who is the Administrator of the Department of Education Arts & Culture (EAC) in the City of Chattanooga and is paid over $103,000 (Top City Of Chattanooga Salaries) was caught running an unauthorized for-profit organization on City time. The organization wasn’t making any money and according to Missy Crutchfield was enhancing her department’s efforts. After pretty intense public scrutiny, she chose to dissolve the organization. (Crutchfield dissolving online publication)

While it is curious that none of the managers of Knowles were aware of what he was doing, and it is upsetting that he ran a business on the side while holding a supervisory position. The bigger question is why do we have governmental employees that make $65,000 or more that have the time to run a side business while on the job? Why do we have a City of Chattanooga Department of Arts and Education when noone seems to be able to figure out what they accomplish? Shouldn’t there be proof of your accomplishments if you make more than $100,000 in salary and more with benefits? Private sector jobs that are non-producing eventually disappear. It’s unfortunate that public sector jobs aren’t equally accountable.

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