Political circles are buzzing today with news that Governor Jack Dalrymple has given out nearly $100,000 in retention bonuses to staff. While some of the early reports on this didn’t do a very good job with details, I can report that the bonuses did happen.
I wrote about it over at Watchdog today.
Here’s the list of who got them (also included are all performance bonuses going back to 2010) which I obtained from the Office of Management and Budget:
As you can see, Dalrymple Chief of Staff Ron Rauschenberger got the largest bonus at nearly $32,000. Four other employees also got sizable retention bonuses, and some of those same employees also got $1,000 performance bonuses in previous years.
These items came to light last week during a meeting of the Legislature’s interim Employee Benefits Programs Committee. That committee doesn’t approve these bonuses. Rather, the various state agencies merely report them to lawmakers.
I spoke with Ken Purdy, executive director of North Dakota Human Resource Management Services, who provided some context on how these bonuses work. “The bonuses are provided based on statute,” Purdy told Watchdog. “It’s a reporting process to the legislative committee. What we did is report the bonuses given to the 2013-15 biennium.”
“Agencies have to cover these within their salary line items,”Purdy said. “There are no additional appropriations provided.”
Here are some details about retention, referral, and recruitment bonuses issued by the state in the last biennium which include the governor’s office bonuses:
- 249 recruitment bonuses totaling $687,000
- 114 referral bonuses totaling $45,000
- 289 retention bonuses totaling $1.45 million
If you average out the retention bonuses, you come up with a little over $5,000 per employee. Obviously the governor’s office bonuses were significantly more than that.
So how is the governor defending these bonuses? Spokesman Jeff Zent, who also got one of the bonuses, told me they were necessary to keep key personnel working on jobs that have an expiration date given that Dalrymple isn’t running for another term.
“The rational is the governor is focused on seeing through some important objectives. To do so it’s important to retain the needed expertise of the staff that’s in place versus finding new and qualified staff for a job that has an expiration date,” he said. Zent specifically mentioned water issues, and energy issues, and also pointed out that Dalrymple’s office will be producing a budget for the next legislative session in January 2017 despite the fact that the state will elect a new governor a year from now.
He added the bonuses in the governor’s office had an additional provision, not necessitated by law, which requires that any employee leaving the administration early has to give back some of their bonus.