Palomar Health Chief Exec’s Wages Land At No. 2 In State
by Matt Clark, UT San Diego
The Palomar Health public hospital agency’s CEO has again ranked with the second-highest pay in the California State Controller’s Office annual statewide survey of local governments — edged out by $2,549.
The CEO, Michael Covert, was paid $1,012,007 in wages for 2010, just shy of the amount paid to Kim Roberts, a Santa Clara County public hospital executive who resigned early in the year and collected a large final payout including accrued leave. The accounting includes not just salary, but also bonus, auto allowance and other taxable pay.
The data for 2010, released this month and analyzed by The Watchdog, includes about 800,000 officials. In 2009, Covert also placed second, behind Bell city administrator Robert Rizzo, who left office amid scandal over his outsize compensation.
North County’s Palomar Health is the state’s largest health care district and derives 3 percent of its revenue from local property taxes.
“Mr. Covert’s salary is based on the market for CEOs of similar size health care organizations generating similar revenues,” spokesman Leonel Sanchez said. “This is the standard methodology for organizations when determining competitive salary rates.”
Indeed, the top 5 local government wage-earners were all health care CEOs. Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said the data shows the problem with leapfrogging public salaries.
“If they offered $900,000 instead of a million dollars, are they suggesting that they would not be able to attract and retain a qualified individual? I doubt it,” Coupal said. “It’s a game played by the public sector, particularly in California. California is still known nationally as the land of milk and honey if you are a public sector employee.” Covert has served as Palomar CEO since 2003. Earlier this year, he received his first raise since 2009, a 10 percent bump to $810,000.
DeAnn McEwan, co-president of the California Nurses Association, said the district has laid off workers and pushed back the opening of clinics in Ramona and Valley Center. “To support that kind of salary, I think it’s unconscionable,” McEwan said. “They are holding back on what the voters are paying for.”
Sanchez said the district’s nurses received up to a 6 percent raise in 2010, an 8 percent raise in 2011 and are scheduled for an 8 percent raise this year. He said the district has taken actions to bring down patient costs and improve efficiency.
“Palomar Health continues to use process improvement activities and technology to advance the care in communities while continuing to strive to reduce costs,” Sanchez said. “Palomar Health provides millions of dollars in uncompensated and charitable care annually.”
Tri-City Healthcare CEO Larry Anderson ranked No. 5 on the list, up from No. 20 in the 2009 numbers. He was paid $830,000.
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