A hospital administrator in Alameda County, a deputy police chief in San Francisco and a physician in Santa Clara County grossed more than $500,000 each in pay last year — the top three 2009 salaries in a database containing 200,000 public employees now available online.

Nancy Farber, chief administrator of Fremont's Washington Hospital, earned $847,811.36; Charles J. Keohane, grossed $516,118.49, in his final year as a San Francisco deputy police chief, including $352,000 in cashed-in vacation and compensatory time; and Dr. Jana Dolnikova of Santa Clara County's Valley Medical Center, grossed $507,748.68.

The database created for the second year in a row by Bay Area News Group breaks down more than $12.2 billion in tax money from salary records obtained from 109 government agencies in the Bay Area.

The data can be viewed and searched at 2009 Public Employee Salaries .

It does not yet include all agencies. It will continue to be expanded weekly throughout the year.

Farber also topped the 2008 salary database even though her pay dropped about $30,000 the following year.

Some highlights in the data include:

  • The Alameda County Fire Department, which is a special district governed by the board of supervisors that maintains its own payroll system, had the highest average salary of the 109 entities: Its 311 full-time employees averaged $144,345.23 in 2009.


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  • Fire departments are often the highest-paid agencies in a city government. The firefighters in four cities — Millbrae, Vallejo, Redwood City and Mountain View — exceeded $150,000 in average gross pay last year.

  • Cities, counties and special districts in the database have a higher percentage of workers with six-figure salaries than the employees of the 16 public school districts in the database. In those 16 school districts, 4 percent of full-time employees grossed more than $100,000 compared with more than 28 percent making six-figure salaries in the nonschool entities. At 13 community college districts in the database, 14 percent of employees broke the $100,000 barrier.

    Disclosure of 2009 government salaries under the state Public Records Act comes three years after the California Supreme Court — in a case involving the Contra Costa Times — rejected privacy claims of employee unions and ruled that such data must be released. Most government agencies provide the data in a format that requires no manipulation or calculation of pay figures in order to display it to the public. Some are willing only to provide raw pay data that requires calculations in order to determine base, overtime and "other" pay, a category that can include uniform allowances for police officers, bilingual pay, educational incentives and other categories.

    News group reporters and a lawyer continue to negotiate with cities such as Alameda, Morgan Hill, Brisbane, Pacifica and Campbell for data in the format in which it can be best displayed.

    "Count on us to keep updating this data often," said Pete Wevurski, the news group's managing editor. "It's vital in a democracy that taxpayers know how their money is being spent, particularly how much of that money goes to public employees.

    "It's our responsibility to share such information as it becomes known to us and, thanks to ever-evolving technologies, we're now able to make more of this data available to more taxpayers more quickly."

    Roughly 80 percent of government budgets are spent on salary and related personnel costs such as health benefits and pension contributions, according to government estimates.

    That means when governments such as counties reduce employees, the public faces reduced services, said Paul McIntosh, executive director of the California Association of Counties. Data show that the county governments of Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Napa, San Joaquin and Solano all reduced their work forces in 2009.

    "Counties were laying off employees while people were lining up at 6 a.m. to apply for food stamps," McIntosh said last week.

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed cutting of funding for the state welfare-to-work program will further decimate county budgets, he said. The 15 largest counties in the state — a group that includes Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties — are facing a combined projected deficit of $2.25 billion, he said.

    Most counties face no choice other than to continue to cut workers, he said. Attrition and furloughs are not enough. "We are talking live bodies," McIntosh said.

    The data shows most cities also cut staffing. Oakland, the East Bay's largest city, employed 374 fewer people in 2009 than 2008, and reduced its payroll through both reductions and a furlough program, by $36.7 million.

    Gilbert Seldon, the fire chief of the Alameda County department, said most public service agencies have cut deeply, but the public still expects to receive basic services. Firefighters work 56-hour weeks at regular pay under state law and don't get overtime until the 57th hour.

    Research shows filling vacant shifts through overtime costs roughly 5 to 7 percent less than adding personnel, Sheldon said, because benefit and pension costs aren't increased "Sometimes it can be more cost effective to pay overtime," he said.

    The department provides fire protection to several cities on a contract basis and will add two more this year, he said, noting that the consolidation cuts overhead — "you have one fire chief" — and also reduces costs for the cities.

    E-mail comments about the database to salarytips@bayareanewsgroup.com.