Douglas County Sheriff Ken McGovern is paid more than the Kansas Highway Patrol superintendent and some sheriffs in more populous counties, thanks to a $16,640 raise county commissioners gave him this week.
But McGovern still trails Lawrence Police Chief Ron Olin and Kansas Bureau of Investigation Director Larry Welch, when it comes to pay.
During an online chat at the Journal-World on Wednesday, County Commission Chairman Bob Johnson said he doesn't think McGovern is overpaid. When McGovern was elected in 2004, commissioners placed him in a bottom pay grade and agreed to re-evaluate him two years later, Johnson said.
"We are keeping our word and the past two years have demonstrated that the sheriff and his people are doing a terrific job," Johnson said.
McGovern's salary jumped from $87,464 to $104,104. That puts him ahead of the Shawnee County sheriff, who earns $71,047, and the Wyandotte County sheriff, who earns $65,603. He still is paid less than the Johnson County sheriff, who receives $118,512.
Olin is paid $107,428 while police chiefs in Olathe and Overland Park are paid $113,131 and $137,244, respectively.
Welch makes $106,766 annually. Kansas Highway Patrol Superintendent William Seck is paid $98,371.
McGovern was out of town Wednesday and unavailable for comment.
Johnson and commissioners Jere McElhaney and Charles Jones also approved the pay increases for Treasurer Paula Gilchrist, Clerk Jamie Shew and Register of Deeds Kay Pesnell - and themselves. Commissioners' pay went from $21,507 to $32,552, an increase of more than 50 percent.
"While it's fair to say that we are able to live without a pay increase, it begs the question of what should the compensation be?" Johnson said. "Also, perhaps this will be a step in the right direction to encourage some other very able person to seek office who might not otherwise be able to afford the risk of being elected."
The pay issue had been placed on the commission's consent agenda during Monday's meeting. The consent agenda usually includes business items the commissioners know they are in agreement on and are passed without discussion. A consent agenda item can be pulled for discussion if requested.
The pay issue was not discussed before the vote because "we didn't want to give anybody the impression we were not unanimous," Johnson said.
Several months ago, commissioners had told County Administrator Craig Weinaug that they would like to see a comparison of salaries of elected officials in other counties.
Those comparisons were released Monday but there had been no prior discussion of them in an open meeting. There had been discussions about the county's pay grade schedule during personnel discussions about the movement of people within the grades during closed-door executive sessions, Johnson said.
The salary increases, including those of the commissioners, were recommended by the county administrator's office.