OPEA’s ongoing concern with the lack of accountability in the unclassified service was evident in an article in the Oklahoman on December 5 revealed that 130 state employees, mostly at the executive level, have received pay raises during the state’s budget crisis.
According to the newspaper report, the raises came inside agencies that have elected officials who will be leaving the office next month. The report says the raises ranged from three percent to more than 40 percent.
“These raises are ill advised during a time when state employees are being laid off or furloughed,” said OPEA executive director Sterling Zearley. “These types of raises should come under scrutiny of legislative appropriations sub-committee and the agency director held accountable for these actions.”
The article further identified the positions receiving most of the raises as position in the unclassified service. According to a recent study, nearly 26 percent of the state’s workforce are unclassified.
“The accountability of these positions is not like the classified service where the Office of Personnel Management has oversight,’ said Zearley. “These positions may or may not have a job description and there is probably no record of what additional job duties were taken on which would warrant a pay raise.”
Agencies will often cite inability to recruit and retain upper-level and management employees as a reason to increase some salaries. Zearley said agencies need to look rethink any type of salary adjustments in the current budget climate.
“Recruitment and retention are serious problems throughout all state government,” concluded Zearley. “If you are not prepared to provide across-the-board pay raises within the agency, you shouldn’t do it at all.”