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Chauffeurs? Body guards? I-Team investigation reveals the pricey perks of local officials

7 ON YOUR SIDE reveals the top 3 most expensive elected officials in DC, MD and VA (ABC7)

Chauffeurs? Body guards? Giant salaries? Those pricey perks sound like something that belong to a celebrity… but they’re not.

The I-Team analyzed the benefit packages of elected officials from the 11 largest local jurisdictions - what they make and what they get.

At $210,000 a year, County Executive Rushern Baker earns the title of being the highest paid local elected official. Baker makes more running Prince George’s County than Governor Larry Hogan makes running the entire state of Maryland, at $165,000. Baker also makes more than Maryland’s U.S. Senators and Congressmen who make $174,000, respectively.

“To the average citizen, this kind of difference in compensation just seems a little irrational,” Pete Sepp, the president of the National Taxpayers Union said.

Beyond salaries, DC’s Mayor Muriel Bowser, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, and again, Rushern Baker, get a security detail. But if you cross the Potomac, in Virginia, the I-Team couldn’t find one local politician who got an armed guard.

When it comes to drivers, the Potomac River is again the dividing line. Bowser, Leggett and Baker all get a chauffeur, while lawmakers in Virginia drive themselves.

We asked Fairfax County Board Chairman Sharon Bulova if she’s at all jealous about the pricey perks her counterparts over the river are receiving.

“No. I love my job. I don’t do it for the many; or the perks,” she told us.

Bulova, who drives herself in her own car, says her biggest perk is having a parking space at the government center.

Upon investigating, the I-Team found it’s not just the top elected officials getting the perks. Prince George’s County Council has something non other has… each and every member get a car or a $10,000 a year car allowance.

A Washington Post article found in the last five years, those council members have racked up more than 100 traffic violations and 15 crashes in their taxpayer funded take-home cars.

Increase in wages, pensions and health care costs are straining budgets all across America. Sepp believes the needed leadership to control spending can only come from the top.

“One of the rationales for paying top elected officials so much money is that you have to attract good, talented people.” Sepp said. “Then, how do we explain the fact that in Virginia they get by paying their folks a lot less. Are they that much less talented? That’s hard to believe.”

We’ve reached out to the top three elected officials mentioned in this story. Here’s their responses:

Office of DC Mayor Muriel Bowser:

As the Nation’s Capital, the District of Columbia is unique and functions as a school district, city, county and a state–with an annual budget of over $13 billion. The Mayor’s salary is in line with the salaries of her counterparts in other major cities. The Mayor’s transportation and protection is also in line with her counterparts in other major cities, is aligned with that of her predecessors, and permissible by law.

Office of Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker:

“There is a formal process per County Charter through the Compensation Review Board who makes recommendation on the salaries and benefits of the County Executive and County Council Members.”

Office of Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett:

The County Executive’s compensation is set by law, approved by the County Council from recommendation by a citizen’s advisory committee.

His security detail, two officers who protect/drive him part-time and coordinate security for County buildings the other part, is not unusual for mayors and elected county executives of jurisdictions with more than a million residents. Another difference I might note is that Fairfax has a more lucrative defined benefit pension plan. Our CE has an ordinary 401-K.

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