and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

A CLT Work-In-Progress

Page 2

The Boston Globe
Saturday, March 26, 2005

Measure sheltered ex-state official
Was defendant in rights lawsuit
By Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff

Governor Mitt Romney and state lawmakers quietly approved a budget amendment last fall that saved a politically connected former state employee from having to pay $250,000 in damages for retaliating against a whistleblower.

A Suffolk County jury awarded $750,000 last June to Bijan Mohammadipour, a high-ranking state engineer who said he was humiliated and stripped of job duties after he pointed out hazardous conditions at an asbestos-filled state office building.

The state was ordered to cover two-thirds of the award, but the rest was to be paid by his former boss, Dennis R. Smith, who, the jury concluded, had deliberately violated Mohammadipour's civil rights.

But Smith, a prominent Plymouth Republican who has made regular contributions to GOP candidates and who heads the New England office of the federal General Services Administration, won't have to pay a penny because of a special law passed in September.

In a little-noticed provision included in a supplemental spending bill and mentioning Smith by name, Romney and the overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature provided that the state cover Smith's portion of the damages and his legal expenses, up to $1 million.

The Romney administration introduced the measure because it believed that Smith "acted in good faith in carrying out his job responsibilities and ... should not face a potentially catastrophic financial loss," Harry Grossman, general counsel for the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, said in a statement. If the state had not come to Smith's aid, Grossman added, it would have difficulty attracting and retaining talented managers.

Asked whether Smith's political ties had anything to do with it, a Romney spokeswoman declined to comment.

But Mohammadipour and his lawyer said the special provision flies in the face of a 1994 Massachusetts law passed specifically to protect whistleblowers.

"On the one hand, the Commonwealth is saying, 'We don't like people who retaliate against whistleblowers,' " said his lawyer, Eric Maxwell, who said he only learned this month about the measure's passage. "On the other hand, it's now protecting the guy who went after the whistleblower."

Smith, who has served as regional administrator of the General Services Administration since 2001 and makes $148,200 a year, did not return phone calls to his office yesterday.

Leslie Greer, a special assistant attorney general who defended Smith and the state in the civil lawsuit, said yesterday that the law was not intended to protect only Smith. She said state officials were worried about managers bolting from their jobs if they feared being held personally liable in such suits.

From 1993 to 2001, Smith served as superintendent of the Bureau of State Office Buildings under Governors William F. Weld and Paul Cellucci and Acting Governor Jane Swift. Prior to that, he directed the Boston regional office of the US Department of Education.

A former math teacher, Smith has made several contributions to Republican politicians on the state and federal level in recent years, including $1,000 to George W. Bush in his first run for president and then $2,000 in his reelection bid.

Mohammadipour sued the state and Smith in Suffolk Superior Court, citing violations of the state's whistleblower-protection statute and federal and state civil rights laws.

He testified at trial that Smith orchestrated a campaign to discredit him, excluded him from meetings, downgraded his employee evaluations, and barred him from the State House after Mohammadipour drew attention to potentially dangerous asbestos at the Saltonstall State Office Building in 1994. The building was closed in 1999, then gutted and renovated at a cost of $186 million.

A Newton psychologist hired by Mohammadipour testified that the Iranian-born Danvers engineer, now 52, suffered from panic attacks, depression, and symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the retaliation.

Greer countered at trial that Mohammadipour never proved he was punished for complaining about unsafe conditions or met legal standards required to prove that federal and state laws had been broken. Nonetheless, the jury sided with Mohammadipour.

One juror said afterward that she felt Mohammadipour had set an impressive example for other state employees. "I'm honored to have somebody like Bijan making sure that when we come into these buildings, we are safe," said juror Linda Nash.

Mohammadipour, the principal engineer for the Bureau of State Office Buildings, said this week that the special legislation covering Smith's damages could embolden other managers to retaliate against whistleblowers.

"How would you encourage anybody who's been involved with the Big Dig and they've seen wrongdoing to come out and blow the whistle if the entire government rewards the person who retaliates against the whistleblower?" he said.

Under Massachusetts tort law, the state can typically protect the personal finances of an individual sued for violating civil rights statutes while carrying out his or her job. But the law specifically excludes defendants who "acted in a grossly negligent, willful, or malicious manner."

The jury in Mohammadipour's suit concluded that Smith acted "willfully, deliberately, maliciously, or with reckless disregard" of Mohammadipour's free speech rights by retaliating against him, according to a question posed to the jury.

After the verdict, Greer said, she met with Romney administration officials and the attorney general's office about passing a special law to pick up Smith's portion of the award and legal expenses.

"The problem wasn't so much that they wanted to reimburse Smith," Greer said. "It was that if this stood out there and a former state manager loses his house because of personal liability, who's going to go work for the state?"

Greer said the reason Maxwell was drawing attention to the special law now was because she filed two motions in the past week seeking to have the jury award thrown out in Superior Court.

Fearing that possibility or a reversal of the verdict on appeal, Maxwell wanted to embarrass state officials to extract a big settlement, she said.

Maxwell called that ludicrous, saying that if state officials "weren't embarrassed by the verdict of this jury, then they will never be embarrassed by anything."

The Boston Globe
Saturday, March 26, 2005

No state money for stem cells
By Jeffrey A. Miron

Senate President Robert E. Travaglini recently proposed that Massachusetts spend $100 million to support embryonic stem cell research. This follows his introduction of a bill that explicitly legalizes such research in the Commonwealth. The legalization bill makes perfect sense; it ensures that everyone knows the rules regarding stem cell research. The spending bill, however, is bad policy.

The argument for this spending is that it will encourage stem cell research in Massachusetts. Any such impact is likely to be small, however, given the multiple other sources of funding. Stem cell research promises marketable therapeutic advances, so profit-making companies have ample incentive to invest. Universities and nonprofit research foundations also provide generous funding for this research, including the basic science questions that for-profit companies sometimes avoid.

Whatever the funding source, it will follow the top researchers and the good ideas. The critical determinants of where this research occurs, therefore, are the location of elite universities and the availability of skilled labor; Massachusetts has both in abundance. Government funding will thus be a windfall to companies or universities that would have conducted stem cell research in Massachusetts anyway.

Beyond having limited impact, moreover, government funding will make the regulatory climate for stem cell research worse rather than better, thereby outweighing any benefit of increased funding.

The reason is that many people object to stem cell research on moral or religious grounds. If this view emanated from a tiny fraction of the population or was patently illogical, it might make sense to ignore it. But that is not the case. Even while accepting that stem cell research could eventually save lives, many people find the activity troubling. Advocates of stem cell research can argue, with reason, that these concerns are misplaced or distorted. But they cannot deny that opponents of stem cell research have good intentions.

A reasonable compromise between opponents and proponents, therefore, is for government to place no restrictions on privately funded research while abstaining from funding this research.

This approach means research can proceed with private funding, unencumbered by government regulation. The evidence shows the private sector generates enormous funding for stem cell research, with impressive results. A research team at Harvard University, for example, has recently produced 17 new stem cell lines using funding only from private sources.

By leaving stem cell research to the private sector, policymakers avoid forcing taxpayers to support research they find morally troubling. This also makes it harder for government to impose unwarranted restrictions. Profit making companies, universities, and research foundations that want to produce or fund stem cell research have strong incentives to lobby against regulation of private research activity.

If stem cell research occurs with government funding or in a government owned and operated institute, however, opponents gain leverage to restrict this research. Such regulatory excess will drive stem cell research out of Massachusetts far faster than government funding can bring it in.

The first Travaglini bill addresses the regulatory issues by explicitly legalizing stem cell research in the Commonwealth. Government Romney opposes this bill, and various groups have launched campaigns against Travaglini. The indications are, however, that the Legislature can override any veto from the governor. In that case, a favorable regulatory climate will induce stem cell research to locate in Massachusetts, without the polarizing influence of government funding.

The federal experience with stem cell research illustrates the dangers of government funding for controversial ideas. The polarization caused by this funding leads not just to withdrawal of support, which the private sector can generally replace; the resulting debate can create more restrictions than would otherwise occur. President Bush's 2001 decision to limit the use of federal funds generated enormous attention and precipitated myriad bills that would have banned certain kinds of stem cell research.

Fortunately, none of these bills has passed so far. But had there been no government funding, the debate might never have arisen in the first place. Massachusetts should not repeat the federal government's mistakes. Clarify the rules, and leave funding of stem cell research to the private sector.

Jeffrey A. Miron is a visiting professor of economics at Harvard University.

The Boston Globe
Thursday, March 31, 2005

State plans school construction probe
By Maria Sacchetti, Globe Staff

The state plans to investigate billions worth of school building construction across the state for budgets far beyond the amounts the state originally approved and extravagant spending on routine items.

The state plans to audit more than 600 school projects that have been in line for money since 1989. State officials don't have a dollar amount for the construction projects, but said those audited will be from a list of nearly 1,200 projects in the state worth at least $9.2 billion.

A new state authority on school construction, which met yesterday, highlighted several projects it wanted to examine, including an Arlington middle school that nearly doubled in price since the state approved its construction. The state has been conducting preliminary audits of a handful of schools.

The state, which has a long history of troubles with its school construction program, is pushing for audits now because the treasurer's office is preparing to sell bonds this spring to pay for part of the construction and needs to know the projects' actual cost. State officials expect higher overall costs because of what they have already heard about overruns.

Taxpayer groups in various communities have been questioning the high prices on projects under construction. Lawrence is building a $104.5 million high school, one of the most expensive schools in the state and at the high end in the nation. A proposed high school in Newton, with 500 fewer students, is also expected to cost that much.

Stephen J. Adams -- president of the Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based think tank -- said he is concerned that the audits, along with changes last year in who oversees school construction, from the state Education Department to the treasurer, aren't enough to prevent overpayments to schools.

The state pays a big portion of school-construction costs in cities and towns, as much as 90 percent in some cases. Under the former system, the Department of Education was responsible for construction oversight, but historically the department lacked staff and funding to audit spending in a timely manner or to visit construction sites to review the projects.

In August, the state auditor found that because of poor oversight, the state overpaid cities and towns by as much as $20.5 million for school construction and renovation projects that came in under budget. Yesterday, the school building authority's board, finishing leftover business from the state Department of Education, reduced construction payments to some school systems by $2.3 million.

"The ... standards for what the state pays for school construction are still way too lax," Adams said yesterday. "The state still pays far too much of the share for construction."

School district officials defend the cost of their projects, saying that steel and other building materials and labor have soared in price as the state grapples with how to handle the school-building program. They say they are trying to balance the need to cut costs with the desire to provide state-of-the-art school buildings with smaller student populations, Internet wiring, and media centers.

Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill says the new Massachusetts School Building Authority will more aggressively monitor costs and find out if overspending is widespread. The authority is still drawing up regulations for the system. He said his office inherited a "broken system."

"We don't want to punish a community that believed they were doing everything right," Cahill said. But he added that the authority was prepared to get tough on "communities that try to pull one over on the state and get extra reimbursement."

The treasurer's office is sifting through hundreds of construction projects it inherited from the Department of Education. The state previously approved a $4.2 billion list of 427 renovations or new schools, including those in Lawrence and Newton. Those projects will be paid for with state bonds, and state officials said they believe the total for new projects could increase because of cost overruns and rising construction costs.

But if audits determine that a school district has spent more than the state approved, the authority may not pay for the overruns, said Katherine Craven, executive director of the authority. The authority cannot authorize further school construction until a moratorium ends in 2007.

Craven said the state is planning to mount a stricter program, with guidelines for the kind of construction the state would be willing to pay for, such as the types of light fixtures. She also plans to establish an online database that would let citizens monitor project costs.

Besides looking at current projects, the authority also wants to scrutinize 728 completed projects, still due $5 billion from the state. A preliminary audit of a middle school built in Arlington showed that the original construction cost of $8.4 million had increased to $15.2 million, for instance, according to a report presented to the authority yesterday. State officials said they are still working with the town to find out why the costs increased.

Carlos D. Matos, a Lawrence city councilor, welcomed the audits. "You can't just think that the state's coming in with money," said Matos, who is running for mayor and is worried about the costs of the new high school. "It's not a blank check."

Lawrence is planning to break down a 2,600-student school into six high schools on one campus, with enclosed walkways, a performing arts center, and fewer than 500 students each, so that teachers and students would better know one another. School officials said the costs are reasonable, given the scope of the project.

"We are one of the few communities in the entire country living up to the promise of personalizing the high school experience," said Superintendent Wilfredo T. Laboy. "When I started the project five years ago, people laughed at me. They called it the Laboy Taj Mahal. Now there are not too many people calling it that any more."

Newton is planning to build a $104.5 million high school because officials are concerned that renovating Newton North High School would be unsafe for students.

The planned school would be designed to save money on fuel and electricity, and city officials said they want it to include the facilities the school has now, including a swimming pool. Mayor David B. Cohen said the school has support from the public and the state.

But the Newton Taxpayers Association is trying to get voters to renovate the existing building for $65 million.

"We think it's wasteful," said Jeff Seideman, president of the association. "We think the voters, if they hear all the facts, would be opposed to the new school."

Mary Grassa O'Neill, one of seven members of the new authority, said school systems will have to prove that the higher costs are necessary or the board won't vote to give them the money.

"Everyone has to play by the rules, or they're on their own," she said.

The Boston Globe
Saturday, April 2, 2005

Business leaders urge state to keep Hynes center open
They cite revenue generated in area
By Janette Neuwahl, Globe Correspondent

Back Bay business leaders urged a state commission to keep the Hynes Convention Center open, arguing that the high-end shopping district around the facility could lose millions of dollars if the meeting center were sold.

"The Back Bay is a fabulous mix of residents, workers, and tourists, but the Hynes is a critical part of that," said David Barrett, senior vice president of Boston Properties, a national corporation that owns seven major Boston commercial centers, such as the Prudential Tower and shops and the Marriott at Long Wharf. "Closing it would be a sad result to the city and a great loss. It's hard to think of anything with a similar economic engine."

State officials are considering selling the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center now that the larger South Boston Convention and Exhibition Center is open. In July, the Legislature assembled a commission to study the pros and cons of keeping the Hynes. The group must offer recommendations to the state about what to do with the properties by December.

At a commission meeting this week, Barrett presented the cochairwoman, state Senator Dianne Wilkerson, with letters from more than 35 businesses in the Prudential Center asking the state not to shut down the Hynes. So far, according to the commission, the only profitable alternatives for the 360,000-square-foot Hynes would be to convert it into a mixed-use retail and residential development or to turn it into a casino, something the state isn't likely to allow.

"The Hynes is a dynamic thing that impacts everyone in a positive way," said Roger Berkowitz, chief executive officer for Legal Sea Foods, the restaurant chain whose most profitable location is in the nearby Prudential Center. Berkowitz said conventions at the Hynes boost business 15 percent to up to 50 percent. "That's why it's so difficult for people to find alternative uses. Nothing would be that good, and probably by a long shot. You have a great number of rooms there, a confluence of shopping on Boylston, Newbury, and then Copley. It's unusual that that many businesses can coexist in that kind of arena, but I think the reason that they can coexist is because of the Hynes."

The Hynes makes about $9.6 million in bookings revenues each year, forcing it to rely on about $6 million in state subsidies.

"Convention centers for the most part operate at a loss -- Miami and Las Vegas are the only ones that don't operate on a loss," said James E. Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority.

The authority soaks up about $17 million in state aid to operate the Hynes and the new South Boston facility, Rooney said. Matthew Arrants, a consultant from the Pinnacle Advisory Group, estimated Hynes conventions generate more than $50 million for local hotels each year, 16 percent to 20 percent of total hotel room revenues in the Back Bay annually.

With this summer's opening of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, state officials say the Hynes bookings could diminish as businesses opt for the larger venue. Back Bay business leaders argued that many companies don't need a facility as large as the new complex, and the Hynes suits the needs of smaller organizations.

A public hearing on the issue is scheduled for 9 a.m. on April 13 at the State House.

The Boston Globe
Sunday, April 3, 2005

He is the director of the Department of Labor.
The state pays him $108,000 a year.
But what does Angelo Buonopane do?
By Sean P. Murphy and Connie Paige
Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent

It's late morning on a brisk day in downtown Boston, and Angelo R. Buonopane, the state's director of the Department of Labor, steps out of his office building. He looks right, he looks left, in front of him, and behind him.

Then Buonopane starts strolling up Washington Street, returning to work 40 minutes later with a shopping bag from one of his favorite haunts, Filene's Basement.

An hour later, Buonopane emerges from his office again, and this time heads for a two- hour, 12-minute lunch at his North End home. Buonopane returns to the office, for 37 minutes, then heads home again. Total time worked: three hours, 14 minutes.

It was another short day for Buonopane, the highly paid, highly connected appointee of Governor Mitt Romney. Buonopane's work days average two hours and 51 minutes, according to Globe reporters who observed him over a series of days during February and March. On many days he does not come in at all.

Romney appointed Buonopane to the newly created job after Buonopane campaigned vigorously for him in 2002, donating generously to his campaign and helping to orchestrate an election-eve rally for Romney in the North End featuring former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

But the $108,000-a-year post has no obvious duties. Buonopane seldom comes to work for more than a few hours, and takes frequent vacations -- seven-and-a-half weeks last year, and three-and-a-half weeks in the first three months of this year.

Last week, a spokesman for Secretary of Economic Development Ranch C. Kimball, to whom Buonopane reports, could not provide a description of Buonopane's duties.

In an interview this week, Buonopane defended his work habits.

"Everything is on the up and up, and everything is accounted for," he said. "Any hour I get paid for, I worked for it. I don't steal from the state. Ask the governor if I'm doing my job."

Told that he had been repeatedly observed working days of only about three hours, Buonopane said that was "impossible."

However, Globe reporters, on 19 days during February and March, tracked Buonopane's comings and goings. On eight of those days, the reporters were able to record, down to the minute, each time he arrived at his Washington Street office, and each time he left. On the other days, reporters were able to observe him for part of the day.

The average hours worked for the eight fully documented days was two hours and 51 minutes. The longest he worked was four hours and five minutes. Lunches were especially long: always at least two hours and sometimes more than three. On two of the eight days, Buonopane left at lunchtime and did not return.

Confronted about the short days, Buonopane acknowledged he is frequently out of the office, but said he is available by telephone. He said he often goes home at lunch to tend to his wife, who he said is sick.

He also said he docks himself when he takes time off. But that assertion was not supported by Buonopane's payroll records, which were reviewed by the Globe. During the eight days, Globe reporters observed Buonopane taking off approximately 40 hours. He docked himself for only four, the records show.

In addition, attendance records show during the first three months of this year Buonopane took 18 vacation days, six sick days, and three personal days. Buonopane spent one week in January and one in February at his condominium in Boca Raton, Fla. Upon his return from the February vacation, Buonopane took two sick days, Feb. 22 and Feb. 23.

Last Wednesday, Buonopane was observed arriving home in the North End at 3:38 p.m. Minutes later, in reply to a call from a Globe reporter, Buonopane's secretary said Buonopane was out of the office at a meeting. About 15 minutes later, Buonopane called the reporter from his home, saying he had gone home sick.

Buonopane took significant time off last year, too. Last summer, he took off every Friday between June 17 and Sept. 16 -- a 15-week period. He also took off five Thursdays in that period. In addition, he took off weeks in February, May, and November, plus scattered other days.

Late Friday, two days after the Globe began making inquiries about Buonopane's short workdays, a Romney spokesman said the administration would look into the matter. Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said the governor would order an investigation of Buonopane's work habits, including whether he has taken excessive vacation time.

"If someone is misrepresenting their working hours on their time sheet, that is cause for disciplinary action," Fehrnstrom said. "Taxpayers have the right to expect from state employees a day's work for a day's pay."

The circumstances of Buonopane's appointment were unusual. When Romney won the governor's race in 2002, Buonopane was serving as director of the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, a job then-Governor William F. Weld appointed him to in 1996.

In January 2003, Romney replaced Buonopane with employment specialist Jane C. Edmonds, and made Buonopane head of the state Department of Industrial Accidents, a sub-agency reporting to Edmonds.

Then, Romney named a top volunteer from his campaign, Brookline lawyer John Chapman, to serve as Buonopane's deputy. Installed as general counsel was Gregory White, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for Worcester district attorney. In early 2004, Romney replaced Buonopane with Chapman, leaving Buonopane with no responsibilities.

But Romney was able to keep Buonopane on the state payroll through the creation of a new job: the state's first-ever director of labor.

Buonopane said Romney "called me to his office and appointed me labor director. He was very satisfied with what he saw and heard about me."

Fehrnstrom said Romney made the appointment because Buonopane received "a very positive recommendation from the previous administration, and because he was effective working with labor."

Buonopane, 57, a former business agent for a cement workers union, also previously served as director of labor relations on the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel project.

He and his wife have been generous contributors to political campaigns, donating $14,900 to candidates for state office since 2002, including $7,000 to Romney and Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, and $1,000 to former acting governor Jane Swift. The Buonopanes have also donated $5,950 to candidates for federal office, including $1,000 to Giuliani and $2,000 to President Bush.

Buonopane has also given to Democrats. In recent years, he has given $850 to House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, $650 to Senate President Robert E. Travaglini, $600 to Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, and $500 to former House speaker Thomas M. Finneran.

Buonopane has strong allies among powerful state politicians, but his personal history has not been without controversy. At the age of 18, he began serving 30 months at the state prison in Walpole for holding up three Brookline pharmacies at gunpoint. He later said he was addicted to drugs as a youth.

Weld, when he appointed him, called Buonopane "a new man" and saluted his wealth of experience. Governor Paul Cellucci, who succeeded Weld, was a strong supporter of Buonopane and retained him in the role. At one point, Cellucci's successor, Swift, tried to get rid of Buonopane, but Cellucci intervened, and persuaded Swift to let him stay.

Globe correspondents Amanda Pinto and Heather Allen contributed to this story.

The Boston Herald
Monday, April 4, 2005

'Poor' court raised wages: Managers reclassified
By Jay Fitzgerald

More than 300 top court managers had their pay boosted by millions of dollars under a job reclassification, as rank-and-file union members were told there was little or no money for pay hikes, the Herald has learned.

The director of the National Association of Government Employees, in tough contract negotiations with state court managers, charges the do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do approach is a classic example of a patronage-heavy management system that looks out for its own.

"It's the hypocrisy of it that bothers," said Kevin Preston, head of 2,500 union court officers, probation officers and security personnel within the Massachusetts Trial Court system, which includes the state's district, superior, probate and juvenile courts.

In a statement issued by Chief Justice Robert A. Mulligan's Administration and Management office, the court said the managers' reclassifications date back to a 1996 plan to update job categories for employees, excluding judges and clerks, with salaries set by the Legislature.

"This is the same design for all salary schedules for management, union and confidential employees," said the statement from Mulligan's office, adding that union members may get similar pay hikes once a new contract is hammered out.

The three-year phase-in of new job classifications for about 330 court managers began in February 2004 - the same fiscal year budgets throughout state government were being slashed and the same year for which union members are being asked to forgo a pay raise. NAGE's contract with the state expired June 30, 2003, Preston said.

The first round of management pay increases, via reclassifications, cost about $1.5 million, or an average of about 3 percent per manager, the court said in a statement.

The second round kicked in this past February, costing another $1.5 million. The third reclassification round will be implemented in February 2006, costing $1 million, the court said.

In all, the hikes will cost about $4.5 million and lead to an average 14.5 percent pay increase over three years for top managers, the court said.

Preston said numbers he's gotten from the courts add up to $5 million, averaging 19 percent per manager over three years, with some making as much as 32 percent more in salaries.

Despite the statistical differences, it's clear court managers have been getting pay boosts, though a court spokeswoman emphasized they are "not pay raises" but job reclassifications.

Christopher J. Bulger, son of former Senate President William Bulger and listed as a "CPO/deputy legal counsel" for the courts, saw his salary jump to $93,021 in February from $85,771 in the fall of 2003 - or by about 8.5 percent, according to state records.

Deputy Commissioners Paul Lucci, William H. Burke III and Stephen T. Bocko saw their salaries jump to $108,546 in February from $98,420 in late 2003 - or by 10.3 percent.

First Deputy Commissioner John F. Cremens and Second Deputy Commissioner Elizabeth V. Tavares' salaries jumped to $112,700 in February from $108,014 in 2003 - or by 4.5 percent.

Those numbers don't include possible hikes next year.

In its statements, the administrative court said it's offered NAGE members a 3 percent annual pay raise dating to July 1, 2004, averaging 13 percent for members over three years, plus annual step increases.

But Preston questioned why managers' salaries increased in fiscal 2004, when state budgets were being cut, and said they represent a "secret pay hike."

The court, in its statement, said the reclassifications "were no more 'secret' than annual regular step increases" received by union members.

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