Gary Alexander’s Long Commute and Rhode Island’s Big Compensation

Rhode Island resident and former human services chief Gary Alexander has been making news back home related to his current job as Secretary of Public Welfare in Pennsylvania.
About two weeks ago, Alexander’s work came up on the Current and Anchor Rising regarding a chart suggesting that a single-mother in the PA public welfare system is better off not making more than $29,000 in gross income unless she can leap above $69,000, because her loss of public assistance payments drops so much.
This week, Alexander caught the attention of Rhode Island Public Radio reporter Ian Donnis after the Pennsylvania Independent published a story about his use of a state vehicle to travel to and from his family’s home in Rhode Island.
Continue reading on the Ocean State Current

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
8 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dan
Dan
8 years ago

There are certain things that are technically legal but look so bad that it is the moral responsibility of those who work for the public not to do them. I mentioned doubling or tripling one’s municipal salary through overtime in a previous comment. Using a state vehicle to make dozens of road trips across New England at taxpayer expense for personal reasons is another.
It appears that Rhode Island is now literally exporting its public sector entitlement culture into other states.

Justin Katz
Justin Katz(@justin)
8 years ago

Well, yeah, the optics are always a consideration, but this issue is, to me, more like my opposition to collective bargaining in general than abuse of overtime in particular.
This is an agreed-upon benefit factored into Alexander’s employment agreement. That may or may not be a good deal for the people of PA (compared with his counterparts in RI, I’d say Alexander’s a good buy at that price). It would be entirely different, however, if he was given a state car for general use and began deciding to take trips to RI.
Frankly, I don’t see how we can, on the one hand, say that government employees should be able to negotiate their own compensation apart from the union collective, and then behave as if it’s inappropriate for them to negotiate benefits as well as salary. I think folks in the private sector could use some education about negotiating salaries, but it’s entirely plausible that the benefit of having a vehicle for the long drive was worth more to Alexander than the cost of supplying it for the state. That’s how employment benefits work.

Dan
Dan
8 years ago

I don’t object to a system that allows him to bargain for a taxpayer-funded car. I object to him bargaining for a taxpayer-funded car because of the highly visible nature of his public position. I think it’s irresponsible for him not to consider the image it creates of public officials, just as I object to the bazillion-dollar taxpayer-funded vacations every president takes. I think they should not do it as a moral matter.
I’m entitled to two 15 minute breaks at work. I can take them at any time, and I can use them however I wish. Sometimes I feel like taking a nap at my desk, but I don’t do it because it would create a bad image of me and my position. Some of my fellow employees do it, and I think it’s irresponsible.

Justin Katz
Justin Katz(@justin)
8 years ago

I’m definitely not defending the benefit as a good political decision… or as anything else. I’d insist, though, that there’s a distinction between elected officials and hired/appointed officials, especially when it appears that the hiring was done through a genuine hiring process, rather than appointing local political allies.
But whatever the case, I think the public should consider the circumstances of each case, and I absolutely think news media reporting on it should present all of the relevant details.

Mike
Mike
8 years ago

Have to agree with Justin. Some positions in city and or state government are hard to fill if you want a top quality person. If you find someone that fills the bill but they reside a good distance away, giving that person a vehicle to go back and forth is a good incentive and factors into the total compensation package. Now, if he had a driver like our leaders in the GA…..

Mike
Mike
8 years ago

Have to agree with Justin. Some positions in city and or state government are hard to fill if you want a top quality person. If you find someone that fills the bill but they reside a good distance away, giving that person a vehicle to go back and forth is a good incentive and factors into the total compensation package. Now, if he had a driver like our leaders in the GA…..

Dan
Dan
8 years ago

The fact that the car has been the source of numerous news articles and we are talking about it here is ex post proof that the benefit itself was dubious and carried with it an inherent appearance of excess or impropriety. The private sector needs to be able to trust and relate to the public sector, otherwise bad things happen – Rhode Island-type things. The taxpayers cannot relate to being given a car for personal use by their company. Even if it’s a totally legal and sound benefit that doesn’t cost the taxpayers any additional money, it looks bad and reinforces the image that public officials get all kinds of special perks and benefits and use their positions for personal gain. He should have known better than to ask for or accept such a benefit. It’s like that fire chief in Providence who filled in for himself on overtime – you just *shouldn’t do* some things, even if you are entitled to them, because they *look really bad* and have a negative impact on public perception.
His explanation that he pays taxes on the car is rather silly. Imagine Stephen Iannazzi defending his absurd state house salary by saying, “Hey, I pay federal taxes on that!” I don’t equate the two individuals, but you see my point.

Mike
Mike
8 years ago

Sensationalism and jealousy have always been a part of news and gossip. Is this now how we judge right or wrong? If so, gun owners better watch out!
Perhaps educating the public might be better than cowtowing to ignorant public opinion, though that is no doubt the more difficult path.

Show your support for Anchor Rising with a 25-cent-per-day subscription.