California

California’s 3 top paid county workers all made $1 million last year – at 1 hospital

California commission chairman explains why state officials are getting a raise

Tom Dalzell, chairman of the California Citizens Compensation Commission, on June 26, 2018 discusses reasoning behind the 3 percent pay raise granted elected officials. The salary increases go into effect on Dec. 3.
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Tom Dalzell, chairman of the California Citizens Compensation Commission, on June 26, 2018 discusses reasoning behind the 3 percent pay raise granted elected officials. The salary increases go into effect on Dec. 3.

It pays to be a doctor. It really pays to be a neurosurgeon.

It really, really pays to be a neurosurgeon at San Joaquin General Hospital.

The eight highest-paid county employees in California last year were all physicians or physician managers for San Joaquin County, with three of them making more than $1 million in 2018, according to wage data released Tuesday by the state Controller’s Office.

The controller’s database shows wages as a total of “regular pay,” “overtime pay,” “lump-sum pay” and “other pay.”

Two neurosurgeons and a trauma surgeon, all of whom practice at San Joaquin General Hospital, each made more than $1 million between regular pay and other pay last year.

Dr. Moris Sengor, a neurosurgeon, made $627,200 in base pay and $615,455 in other pay for a total of $1,242,655 last year; neurosurgeon Dr. Azeem Olalekan Oladunjoye made $540,000 in base pay and $579,215 in other pay for $1,119,215 total; and trauma surgeon Dr. Frank R. Kennedy made $342,483 in base pay plus $745,833 in other pay for $1,088,317.

Those three were also the state’s highest-paid county employees in 2017, as reported last June, though Kennedy and Oladunjoye swapped spots.

For context, Sacramento’s highest-paid county employee was a captain at the Sheriff’s Office who made $354,396 in 2018. The highest paid county employee in California outside San Joaquin County was a pharmacy services chief who made $820,520.

“Other pay” encompasses things like stipends, incentive pay, car allowances and other bonuses.

San Joaquin General CEO David Culberson told The Sacramento Bee last year that physicians’ sky-high wages are a product of limited specialists. Because San Joaquin General is a Level III Trauma Center, it is required to staff a neurosurgeon 24/7, and there were only three on staff in 2017.

“We don’t have a training program here, so we don’t have the fellows and the faculty members that are able to respond to neurosurgical needs,” Culberson told The Bee in 2018. “Basically, what that means is we’re having our physicians in-house 24/7 for trauma and anesthesia.”

San Joaquin General, located in French Camp, employed six physician managers in both 2017 and 2018, according to county budgets.

The controller’s database contains W-2 wages reported by 54 California counties, encompassing a total of 377,282 employees. San Joaquin made up 8,183 of those county employees, but had 17 of the top 23 highest-paid county employees statewide last year.

The top 27 positions on the statewide list were all doctors or other health services employees; at No. 28, Riverside County’s director of public social services made a total of $582,430 in 2018.

Three counties – Humboldt, Imperial and Marin did not report wages.

Editor’s note: This story was updated June 25, 2019, to correct the “other pay” figure for Dr. Azeem Olalekan Oladunjoye.

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.
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