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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

College football coaches top state salary list; governor is ranked 2,125

The Huskies beat the Cougars in the 2018 Apple Cup, but Coach Mike Leach beat Coach Chris Petersen in another arena: the salaries received by state employees.

As usual, Washington State University Head Football Coach Leach and University of Washington Head Football Coach Petersen are at the top of the annual list of state employees, with significant yardage between them and the rest of the pack, including Gov. Jay Inslee who was ranked 2,125.

At No. 1 was Leach, who received $3,587,500 in 2018; Petersen was No. 2 at $3,473,300. Their salaries do not come from taxpayers, the universities are quick to point out, but from revenues like television contracts and ticket sales. But the checks are issued by the state, so they show up on the Office of Financial Management’s state employee salaries list.

The annual list shows the amount the state paid more than 204,000 full- and part-time workers in 2018, as well as the amounts paid to another 259,000 people who worked for the state at some point since 2014. In most cases, the names, departments and job titles are listed, although for nearly 2,300 ferry workers, the names are withheld to comply with federal security laws.

Football coaches have complicated contracts with bonuses and incentives on top of their base pay for winning and going to certain bowl games. In 2017, the Huskies went 10-3 with a trip to the Fiesta Bowl; the Cougars went 9-4 with a trip to the Holiday Bowl. That year, Petersen made $280,000 more than Leach.

UW Head Basketball Coach Michael Hopkins is fourth in the 2018 list with $1,925,000, followed by WSU Head Basketball Coach Ernie Kent – fired this March after a five-year tenure in which he went 58-98 – at $1,406,300.

Hopkins and Kent each made more than twice what their respective university’s president made. UW’s Ana Cauce had a salary of $749,000, which put her at No. 8 on the list, and WSU’s Kirk Schulz was at No. 16, with a salary of $625,000.

The only seven-figure salary in the list not for a coach is the $1,200,600 to Keith Ferguson, who is the chief investment officer for the UW Endowment Fund, which handles more than $3 billion in assets.

The two universities dominate the top of the list, with more coaches, athletic directors, administrators and professors who receive significant grants from foundations or businesses for certain kinds of research. The list reports a state employee’s total earnings, not just what comes from taxpayers.

Only one of the top 35 names isn’t connected to UW or WSU. Gary Breubaker, the chief investment officer for the State Investment Board, received $657,000.

Inslee may be at the top of the state’s political hierarchy, but his $175,900 salary puts him at No. 2,125 on the list. That’s behind Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst at No. 1,687 with a $190,600 salary, and the rest of the justices who make $187,900 and are about 60 slots lower.

The searchable list allows anyone to find out the the salary of any full-time or part-time state employee, with a few notable exceptions. The names of undercover Washington State Patrol officers are withheld as are the names of some domestic violence victims.

Also withheld from the list are the names of most Washington State Ferry workers under orders from the U.S. Coast Guard that revealing the names and positions of employees with access to the boats or docks would violate federal security laws.

The issue first arose in 2015 when a state resident made a public records request for releasable information about all state employees, said Nathan Sherrard, of the Office of Financial Management. Because of certain union contract requirements, the state notified all state employees of the request. That’s when the Coast Guard pointed out the Maritime Transportation Act doesn’t allow the release of certain identifying information like job titles for ferry employees who have unescorted access to secure or restricted areas of ferry facilities or vessels.

It said OFM would have to remove the job titles from the list. The state countered that wasn’t a reasonable solution because removing the titles but naming the employee was the same as saying that person had access to a restricted area.

Instead, the state opted to withhold the ferry worker names and to list the job title and the salaries for those with that access. As a result, the names of most ferry workers, from pilots and chief engineers to ticket sellers in the terminals, aren’t listed in the database but their pay is.

“The Coast Guard gave us a pretty strong directive,” said Ian Sterling, a spokesman for the ferry system.

Anyone with a badge that allows access to a secure area inside or outside the terminals, or the boats, is covered by that directive, Sterling said. That includes ticket sellers, who deal with cash and can sometimes open the gates, can get into secured areas and are among the 2,297 workers whose names are withheld from the database.