Records show Higher Ed Board sweetens pot for employees

OKLAHOMA CITY – Sixteen high-ranking employees of the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education already earning more than $100,000 a year received hefty increases thanks to a recently OK’d 5-percent pay hike package.

Another employee, serving as an assistant general counsel, received a much higher increase. In all, 17 Regent employees now draw salaries of more than $100,000 a year.

“Given that tuition and fees have soared over the last decade — and that eight public institutions in Oklahoma now have students who are more likely to default on their loans than they are to graduate — these pay raises for affluent administrators are as inappropriate as they are unsurprising,” said Brandon Dutcher, vice president for policy at the free-market think tank Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, and an outspoken critics of the pay increases.

“As long as higher education remains the fourth branch of government, plenty of savvy Oklahomans — including ex-politicians and staffers —will continue to find a cozy home on the higher-ed payroll.”

Information provided to Oklahoma Watchdog from the Regents’ staff revealed that 13 employees in the administrative offices are among the state’s highest paid public employees.

The employees, work area and fiscal year 2013 vs. fiscal year 2014 salaries are:

• Blake Sonobe (academic affairs) $185,000 to $194,250 annually;

• Debra Stuart (educational partnerships)  $140,595 to $147,675;

• Glen D. Johnson (chancellor) $300,983 to $316,032;

• Raquel Schmitz (administration)  $130,000 to $136,500;

• Jon Domstead (state system auditor) $120,750 to $126,788;

• Robert Anthony (general counsel) $174,305 to $183,020;

• David Harting (assistant general counsel) $77,400 to $102,270;

• Amanda Paliotta (budget and finance) $180,000 to $189,000;

• Hollye Hunt (governmental relations) $120,000 to $126,000;

• Kermit McMurray (student affairs) $140,071 to $147,075;

• Tony Hutchinson (strategic planning analysis, and workforce and economic development) $155,00 to $162,750;

• Bryce Fair (state grants and scholarships) $105,812 to $111,103;

• Ricky Steele (information technology, telecommunications) $103,312 to $108,478.

Two employees in the Oklahoma College Assistance Program who received increases putting them in the upper portion of all state government employees were:

• Rick Sykora (financial and system services, chief financial officer)  $100,800 to $105,840;

• Rick Edington (college assistance) $107,625 to $113,006.

Two employees in the ONENET telecommunications system for Higher Education who also netted hefty raises were:

• James Deaton (chief tech officer) $113,900 to $119,595;

• Von Royal (information technology, telecommunications) $145,000 to $152,250.

Angela Caddell, interim director of communications for the Higher Ed Regents, told Oklahoma Watchdog the pay hikes “were funded through internal cost efficiencies generated by contract savings, adjusted travel budgets, and cost sharing on IT hardware and software.”

“No new appropriations were used to support the cost of living adjustments, and employees in the State Regents’ Oklahoma College Assistance Program (OCAP) and OneNet divisions (nearly 40 percent of the State Regents’ workforce) are not supported by state appropriations. The cost of the pay increase is approximately $1 million,” she said.

In all, Paliotta said previously, 268 employees of the Higher Regents received pay increases.

Contact Patrick B. McGuigan at and follow us on Twitter: @capitolbeatok.