There is so much for which to be thankful, despite the harrowing year. At Civil Beat, we have never been more thankful for readers like you. As we head into the final stretch of 2020, we’re asking you to support our local, nonprofit newsroom. In exchange for your support, we’re thrilled to offer you new Civil Beat swag!
Civil Beat has raised $10,000 towards our $200,000 goal!
Editor’s Note: Our popular public employees salaries database is back. This year, we’ve combined all agencies in a single database but we’ll still be breaking out stories on state and city departments in the coming weeks. Today: the City and County of Honolulu.
Four Honolulu officials make more than $200,000 annually and another 110 earn more than $100,000.
The medical examiner, Dr. Christopher Happy, remains the top-paid city employee at $261,384, followed by Dan Grabauskas, who earns $257,250 as head of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, Robin Lerseth, who makes $220,008 as plant and operations manager for the Board of Water Supply, and Dr. Rachel Lange, the deputy medical examiner, who makes $209,136.
Police Chief Louis Kealoha is the city’s sixth-highest-paid employee at $173,424, and Mayor Kirk Caldwell is 12th at $157,080.
While employees are spread out around Oahu, Honolulu Hale is the headquarters of the city and county government.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Honolulu supplied names, job titles and salary range information for 9,333 city employees in response to Civil Beat’s public records request. The news outlet has created a searchable, sortable database for the public to explore through various search options, including by department, name, job title or salary amount.
The database also includes salary information for thousands of state employees, including University of Hawaii officials, lawmakers, judges and Gov. David Ige’s administration.
Civil Beat started publishing salary data in 2010 as part of our effort to make government more transparent. It was the first time a Hawaii news outlet had published the information, although it’s common in other states.
Salaries are by far the biggest cost in state and local government. Understanding where that money is going — how much and to whom — is critical for the public to evaluate whether its elected officials are wisely using tax dollars.
Knowing this information also helps ensure city and state employees are being paid fairly in relation to their co-workers. The salary data provided is just that — salaries. It doesn’t include overtime or benefits.
Honolulu continues to withhold the names of police officers, as it has every year. Police department officials have taken the position that the names of some officers can’t be disclosed because it could compromise undercover work, whether the officer is assigned to undercover duty or not.
HPD provided information for 2,647 employees, with salary ranges for the vast majority.
Based on the data provided, the police salaries total $152.8 million to $217.7 million, making it the city’s most costly agency.
Note: Civil Beat is still awaiting salary information from the state Department of Education. In addition, we will be adding information from the University of Hawaii Athletics Department and the county governments of Kauai, Maui and the Big Island.
Here’s a look at the top 25 highest-paid city officials as of last July 1.