Alaska’s top-earning state employees include investment managers, troopers and psychiatrists

an Alaska Department of Corrections hiring sign
The Alaska Department of Corrections advertises a $10,000 hiring bonus during the 2022 Fourth of July Parade in Juneau. A listing of state employees’ gross pay shows more than half of the top 50 state employees are in public safety. (Photo by Lisa Phu/Alaska Beacon)

Alaska’s top-grossing public employee during the last fiscal year was a forensic psychiatrist for the state prison system, according to a report released after a public records request by the Alaska Beacon.

Dwight Stallman received $415,500 in gross pay during fiscal year 2022, which ran from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022. That was the highest figure among 15,484 employees listed. An executive for the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation likely was paid more, but his compensation will not be disclosed until early 2023. 

State workers’ regular salaries are disclosed regularly by the state, but many employees also receive relocation expenses, bonuses for working in remote areas, overtime pay, or receive deposits into their retirement account in exchange for unused leave. These additions are not regularly disclosed but may be part of their gross pay.

Among the top 10 earners in the report are four investment officials — three from the Alaska Permanent Fund and one from the Teachers Retirement System — three state troopers, a corrections officer in Bethel, and the chief psychiatrist of the Alaska Psychiatric Institute.

Public safety positions — either with the state troopers or the Department of Corrections — account for 11 of the top 25 positions and 28 of the top 50.

Police departments and prison systems across the country, including in Alaska, have repeatedly raised salaries and have offered bonuses in order to compete amid a shortage of licensed officers.

Investment employees are also in demand: Though top investment officials at the Alaska Permanent Fund are among the highest-paid in the state, the state-owned corporation is struggling with vacancies as workers leave for higher-paid jobs elsewhere. 

The newly released report doesn’t include all state jobs, said Frank Hurt of the state Division of Personnel and Labor Relations.

Members of the Alaska State Defense Force — the state’s organized militia — the National Guard, AmeriCorps volunteers, board members, stipend recipients and student workers are excluded.

Independent public corporations, such as the Alaska Railroad, Alaska Gasline Development Corporation and the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, are also excluded because they use separate accounting systems.

Those corporations disclosed their top earners in a listing of executive salaries earlier this year. That listing runs by calendar year rather than fiscal year.

In calendar year 2021, AGDC president Frank Richards received $447,167 in total compensation, making him the state’s highest-paid employee during that period. 

The same listing showed AHFC Corp. CEO Bryan Butcher with compensation of $305,150. That would have been 12th in the gross pay report. Railroad president and CEO Bill O’Leary’s $297,825 compensation would have been 15th.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s salary of $145,002 was No. 862 on the list, just behind the manager of the Bethel airport.

The 2022 listing of executive salaries will be published early next year but isn’t as comprehensive as the gross pay summary.

When asked why Dr. Stallman was the state’s top gross earner, Betsy Holley, a spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Corrections, said Stallman and the Bethel officer who finished in the top 10 “are paid in accordance with the assigned salary schedules for their job classes, duty stations, applicable collective bargaining agreements and personnel rules.”

Stallman’s regular salary is $289,500 and no overtime was listed in the report, indicating he may have received bonuses for special duty or cashed in vacation time. 

That was the case for at least some of the Alaska State Troopers who finished among the state’s highest earners. All three were shown to be working for Detachment C, which covers western and southwestern Alaska, an area larger than the combined states of West Virginia, Ohio and Alabama.

An official with the Alaska Department of Public Safety said some of the figures for its top-grossing employees “include moving costs for relocation to remote areas of Alaska and may also include cash outs of personal leave to an employee’s deferred compensation retirement account.”

Austin McDaniel, a spokesperson for the department, said Lt. Lonnie Gonzales, Sgt. Scott Sands, and trooper Abraham Garcia — all within the top 10 — “are all dedicated and longtime DPS employees who provide high quality public safety services to the residents of rural Alaska. All Alaska State Troopers are paid in line with Alaska law, their respective collective bargaining agreements, and Alaska administrative code and rules.”

Nationally, police officers’ salaries averaged $70,750 in 2021, the latest year for which the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has published information. Alaska’s average salary for officers, $87,510, was the fourth-highest in the nation.

For psychiatrists, the national average is $249,760, and the figure for forensic psychiatrists, who receive extra training, was not available.

For all Alaskans, not just those working for the state, the average household income is $91,547, according to the latest American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census.

Three of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation’s investment officers, including chief investment officer Marcus Frampton, are among the state’s top 10 employees.

In calendar year 2021, APFC executive director Angela Rodell earned $444,933 in total compensation; she was fired by the corporation’s board at the end of the year, halfway through FY22, and isn’t listed in the gross pay report. 

The corporation’s new director, Deven Mitchell, is slated to receive a salary of $350,000, which would place him among the top 10 in the coming year.

Preliminary information presented to the corporation’s board of directors earlier this month indicates investment staff managing the $76 billion Permanent Fund continue to be underpaid when compared to staff at similar organizations elsewhere in the country.

The board is investigating a new salary and bonus system and voted to give Mitchell the power to award incentive bonuses for FY22 performance even though the bonuses require the fund to have positive returns. 

The fund posted negative returns for FY22, the first time in a decade it has done so.

The bonuses will instead act as incentives to stay with the corporation and will boost some APFC employees’ gross pay for FY22 above what’s listed in the current report.

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: info@alaskabeacon.com. Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.

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