The $94,000 secretary

typewriter closeup

Secretaries do a lot more than typing. Or, at least, the $94,000 ones do.

We have to admit our eyebrows went up a bit when we read this morning that Elizabeth Sweeney, John Sweeney's first wife, is making almost $94,000 a year as a secretary at the State Insurance Fund. As the TU reported today, the state inspector general has announced an investigation of the agency after a whistleblower reported it was a haven of political patronage.

As B pointed out in a comment, secretaries do a lot of things -- and sometimes the title can be misleading. And we've often thought that secretaries pretty much run the world behind the scenes. So we acknowledge that they're important people.

But the former wife of a Congressman has a $94k/year state job as a secretary that she got during the administration of a governor with whom her former husband was (politically) close?

This seemed a little weird -- not necessarily wrong, but unusual. And the payroll data indicates that it is unusual.

The Empire Center has an online database of the salaries for pretty much every state worker (it's called SeeThroughNY). So we looked up secretaries.

And it as it turns out, Elizabeth Sweeney is the highest-paid secretary at the State Insurance Fund (by almost $10k) -- and she's the 11th highest-paid person in the entire government with the title "secretary."

Here's the screengrab from the SeeThroughNY database (we couldn't link directly to this result):

nys highest paid secretaries

OK, some of the people on that list are not secretaries in the way people normally think of the job. The obvious example is at the top: Charles O'Byrne was "Secretary to the Governor" -- which meant he was Paterson's top advisor (he no longer works for Paterson). Here's what we could find about the other people.

+ Jaclyn Brilling is secretary to the New York State Public Service Commission. Her job is described as "administrative support to the Commission and is responsible for document management within the Department of Public Service."

+ It looks like David Johnson is secretary to the NYS Board of Regents.

+ James Shed was described in January as "Secretary to the Committee Character and Fitness, Appellate Division, First Department."

+ Fred Bodoff seems to be another official involved with that committee -- which is involved in admitting attorneys to practice in NY.

+ Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez is New York's Secretary of State.

+ Ronald Kermani is described here as "Senior Vice President for Communications" of the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation.

+ Michael Buttino is described here as some sort of liaison for HESC.

+ We couldn't turn up anything about Susan Burdick.

+ Sandra Olson is described here as "Secretary to the Board" of the NYS Workers Compensation Board.

The TU article doesn't mention anything about Sweeney's responsibilities -- and we couldn't turn anything up about her position. If she's making that much money, though, it's reasonable to expect she has a lot of responsibility -- and if so, she should be paid what's she's worth.

By the way: the median annual salary for someone with the title "secretary" who works for the state is $43,200.*

* We got this number by pulling all the secretary salaries from the SeeThroughNY database and computing the median.

chart: SeeThroughNY

photo: Flickr user aprillynn77


For the record, I wasn't defending this partiuclar secretary, but the sometimes derision people toss toward the title.

Anyone who wants to get anywhere knows that the secretary is the person you want to get in good with, ehther you work in the office or are trying to deal with someone in the office.

Also, male secretaries are the new male nurses. Love them.

Of course she has a cushy job... she deserves it, after putting up with John's behavior all those years, she became the holder of many secrets. I couldn't be happier that she is, where she is. It just may be the only time John truly took care of her.

@insider: Yes, because we should all get cushy jobs for being the rich ex-wife of a nasty politician that we chose to marry. You're right...I had it all wrong...shame on me.

@B: I completely agree with you. I don't argue what you said at all. My anger comes with the fact that I highly doubt she's worth the money they are paying here. And as for male secretaries...I love them just as I do male nurses. :-)

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