As you probably know, Sylvester Turner sent layoff notices to 67 fire fighter cadets to help pay for the implementation of Proposition B. Those layoffs will save the City $1.6 million.
What you probably don’t know is that Turner has quietly hired, at least, 269 people since he instituted a so-called “hiring freeze” immediately after Proposition B passed in November. The salary costs for these new employees alone is nearly $12 million.
We uncovered this hypocrisy recently when we obtained payroll data for the City of Houston through the end of January. This data set included each employee’s hire date, allowing us to filter for the employees hired after Turner announced his “hiring freeze.”
The cost of the new employees Turner hired after his “freeze” is nearly eight times what the City will save from laying off the cadets.
Most of the new hires were routine, but several caught my eye, to-wit:
Mayor’s Communication Staff – Turner added three people to his communication staff; a deputy assistant director (executive level), a division manager (executive level) and senior communications specialist. The first two were hired in at $85,000 and the third at $70,000. These salaries would have covered the cost of ten firefighter cadets. I am sure that the fact that Turner will be facing an election in a few months had nothing to do with his decision prioritize hiring more personal communication staff.
Health & Human Services – Turner added a Deputy Director (executive level) at a salary of $130,000. This would have paid for six more firefighter cadets. A total of 21 new employees were added to the HHS Department. Six were hired at salaries in excess of $85,000.
Legal Department – Turner added two more attorneys to the City’s legal staff. Their combined starting salaries equal $240,000 and would have covered an additional ten firefighter cadets. Of course, given Turner is the most litigious mayor in the City’s history, it is not surprising he would prioritize hiring more lawyers over firefighters.
Parks Department – Turner added a park naturalist at a salary of $52,000.
This data is now more than 60 days old, so we have no idea how many more employees Turner has added since January 31. But this report clearly shows that the “hiring freeze” was a lie from the day Turner announced it. The City continued to hire about 100 employees per month just like it had done prior to the supposed “hiring freeze”.
In one of the most disgusting political moves I have ever seen, the day before Turner announced the layoff of the fire cadets, his campaign sent out a “petition” on social media. The title of the petition was “No Cuts, No Layoffs.” If you clicked on the link it took you to a form to donate to Turner’s campaign.
Houston deserves better.