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Iowa's economic development director received a $30,000 bonus in each of the last three fiscal years, making her take-home pay 20 percent higher than a state salary cap for that position.
Debi Durham, named director of Iowa's economic development efforts in November 2010, received $30,000 in extra pay in fiscal 2011, but state agencies provided different reasons for the bonus.
The Legislative Services Agency, which studied bonuses and other pay for a November report, said Monday that Durham received additional compensation for leading the Office of Energy Independence, which was later folded into the economic development agency.
Tina Hoffman, spokeswoman for the Iowa Economic Development Authority, said the $30,000 in fiscal 2011 was a retention bonus.
Durham received a $30,700 retention bonus in fiscal 2012, which ended June 30, and is receiving another $30,700 bonus in fiscal 2013, Hoffman said.
The bonuses push Durham's compensation to $185,000, which is nearly 20 percent higher than the maximum $154,300 allowed by state salary caps.
The Gazette reported Sunday about two other agency heads who received bonuses.
Courtney Kay-Decker, director of the Department of Revenue, received an $800-per-pay-period housing allowance for her first year on the job, ending March 15, 2012, that totaled $20,800. The portion that fell in fiscal 2012 raised Kay-Decker's compensation to $175,012.
The maximum salary set by law for the revenue director is $154,300.
K. Brian London was hired as Public Safety commissioner in October at an annual salary of $128,890 - the upper limit of his salary range - but Jeff Boeyink, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's chief of staff, authorized a $16,110 recruitment bonus to raise London's pay to $145,000.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers criticized Branstad for skirting the Legislature to bump up directors' pay. (story continues after documents)
“It sounds like they are using a bonus structure to get around the pay ranges,” Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, said about the bonuses provided Kay-Decker and London. “If the governor believes he has this authority, we need to tighten that up.”
Rep. Clel Baudler, R-Greenfield, said the deals look bad.
“It's not only the overall dollar amount, but kind of the way it was done,” Baudler said last week.
Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht did not return a phone message and email Monday seeking comment about Durham's bonuses.
Ron Robinson, the senior legislative analyst who compiled the November “Other Pay FY2011 and FY2012” report, said he had not been aware of Kay-Decker's housing allowance.
“I am looking into how they would have gotten that money to her,” he said. The $20,800 payment to one person would have stood out in the executive branch, Robinson said.
He singled out Durham's bonus in the 11-page report.
“The Department of Economic Development made payments totaling $30,700 to the director,” Robinson noted in a section for “highest payments by category.”
Durham also received $73,469 in travel and subsistence payments in fiscal 2012, which was the second-highest amount among nearly 60,000 state employees. International travel accounted for the bulk of the expenditures, with trips to Germany, Spain, Taiwan, China, Korea and Japan in recent years, Hoffman said.
“Primarily it's business-recruitment efforts,” she said.
Before joining state government, Durham served as president of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce. She ran for lieutenant governor in 2002, with Republican Doug Gross, but Gross was defeated by former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack