Editor’s note: One of Civil Beat’s most popular features, the database of public employee salaries, is taking shape for the 2020 fiscal year, which began July 1. We update the salary database when new union contracts are signed and new budgets are put in place reflecting salary increases.

Gov. David Ige is the chief executive of Hawaii’s state government, but at $165,048 a year, he is far from the highest-paid state employee.

While the governor’s department heads tend to get paid a little less than he does, top-earners in several departments, including Budget and Finance; Business, Economic Development and Tourism; Defense and Human Services, are paid a lot more.

And we haven’t even gotten to the University of Hawaii football coach, whose salary will be included in UH numbers coming next week.

Still, Civil Beat’s public employee salary database has grown dramatically with the addition of more than 14,000 state workers.

Click here to load this Caspio Online Database.

Since 2010, Civil Beat has been publishing databases with information about tens of thousands of public employees. Salaries are a major component of state and county budgets and we think it’s important for taxpayers to know how their money is being spent.

Here’s more about the 19 state departments that have been added to the database in the latest installment:

• The Department of Accounting and General Services manages and supervises a wide range of state programs and activities. Its divisions include Accounting, Archives, Audit, Automotive Management, Central Services, Land Survey, Public Works and the Office of Enterprise Technology Services.

DAGS is headed by the state comptroller, Curt Otaguro, who is paid $147,444. Two years ago, then-comptroller Roderick Becker earned $144,552.

But the department’s highest-paid employee is its chief information officer, Douglas Murdock, who earns $200,004. Two years ago, then-CIO Todd Nacapuy made $199,260.

There are 738 DAGS employees in the database, with the lowest-paid being an election clerk making $23,088.

• The Department of Agriculture supports, promotes and protects the agriculture and aquaculture industries. It works to prevent the introduction of plants, animals and diseases that damage the industry and the environment.

Board chair Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser is paid $154,812. But it’s possible as many as seven of the 289 department employees in the database make more, because they are listed by pay ranges with the high ends being above the director’s salary. (For workers covered by collective bargaining, the state provides a range rather than actual salary.)

Other top earners with set salaries are James Nakatani, executive director of the Agribusiness Development Corporation, $145,692, and Myra Kaichi, senior executive assistant, $141,684.

The department’s lowest-paid employee is a pesticide subsidy program manager earning $25,562.

Attorney General Clare Connors.
Attorney General Clare Connors took office in January. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

• Hawaii’s attorney general is the chief legal officer and chief law enforcement officer of the state of Hawaii. The Department of the Attorney General includes 675 employees listed in the new database.

Clare Connors, appointed attorney general by the governor in January, earns $162,552. Two years ago, then-AG Doug Chin made $151,776.

At least 101 department employees, most of them deputy attorneys general, earn six-figure salaries.

The lowest-paid employees are student workers making $21,012 to $22,572.

• The Department of Budget and Finance oversees the financial operations of state government, including investments and cash management.

There are some big earners on the department roster, topped by Thomas Williams, retirement system executive director, who makes $283,566. Two years ago, he made $250,000.

Among the 352 department employees in the database, at least 47 earn six-figure salaries.

Other top earners include:

• Elizabeth Burton, chief investment officer, $265,008. Two years ago, then-chief investment officer Vijoy Chattergy made $240,000.

• Howard Hodel, risk management investment officer, $178,080. Two years ago, he made $150,000.

• Anthony Goo, liquid markets investment officer, $164,000. Two years ago, he earned $139,725.

• Neal Miyahira, director of finance, $162,552. Two years ago, then-finance director Wesley Machida made $151,776.

• Derek Mizuno, health benefits trust fund administrator, $156,300.

Clerks and office assistants are the lowest-paid at $29,088.

Azure blue and sandy shore of Waikiki Beach.
Tourism promotion is the responsibility of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2018

• The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism has an array of responsibilities, including business and arts and culture development and support. Its many “attached agencies” include the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the Housing Finance and Development Corporation.

The new database lists 267 department employees, with the top earner being Christopher Tatum, HTA president and CEO, at $270,000. Two years ago, George Szigeti made $297,684 as HTA executive director.

Other top-paid employees include:

• Karen Schulz Hughes, HTA vice president for marking and product development, $200,000.

• Keith Regan, HTA chief administrative officer, $160,000.

• Mike McCartney, formerly the governor’s chief of staff and now overall director of DBEDT, $154,812.

At least 38 department employees earn six-figure salaries. Three student helpers are the lowest-paid at $11,016.

• The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs regulates and licenses more than 140,000 professionals, monitors the financial solvency of local banks and insurance companies and investigates complaints of fraudulent and unfair business practices.

Director Catherine Colon is paid $154,812, compared to $144,552 two years ago. Deputy Director Jo Ann Takeuchi gets $142,416 after receiving $132,972 two years ago.

At least 28 department employees make six figures, among the 467 employees in the database.

Public Utilities Commission Chairman James Griffin makes $134,688. Then-chair Randall Iwase made $125,760 two years ago. The other PUC members, Jennifer Potter and Leodoloff Asuncion, make $127,956.

A student helper is the lowest-paid at $21,012.

• The Department of Defense includes the Hawaii National Guard, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and the state Office of Homeland Security.

Its highest-paid employee is Kenneth Hara, deputy adjutant general, who makes $233,059. Two years ago, he made $221,346.

1Brigadier General Kenneth Hara HIEMA report presser.
Deputy Adjutant General Kenneth Hara is the highest-paid employee of the Department of Defense. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Hara is actually paid more than the adjutant general, Arthur Logan, who makes $222,441 ($220,651 two years ago).

Other top earners include:

• Neal Mitsuyoshi, military support and legislative affairs officer, now makes $142,626, significantly more than what William Spray earned in the same post two years ago — $118,409.

• Reynold Hioki, cybersecurity manager, earns $140,328, compared to $134,244 two years ago.

• Thomas Travis, vice-director of civil defense, makes $134,676. Two years ago, Vern Miyagi made $125,760 in the same post. Travis replaced Miyagi after the false missile alert in January 2018.

At least nine of the 377 department employees in the database earn six-figure salaries. Four office assistants are the lowest-paid at $30,240.

• The state Public Library System maintains 51 branches statewide, including the flagship library in Honolulu.

State Librarian Stacey Aldrich earns $120,000. At least four employees might make more, as they are listed in ranges that start at $83,508 and go to $153,228.

In all, 630 workers are listed in the database. Dozens of student helpers are the lowest-paid at $21,012, except for one who makes $10,716.

• The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is charged with managing Native Hawaiian trust lands and providing homesteads for beneficiaries.

Earlier this year, the department’s top two officials in effect traded places, with William Aila moving from deputy commission chairman to chairman while Jobie Masagatani was not renominated as chairman but later offered the job of executive assistant.

OHA Candidate William Aila during forum held at the Windward Community College.
William Aila became chairman of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands earlier this year. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Aila is now paid $154,812 and Masagatani makes $120,756. Two years ago, Aila got $132,972 and Masagatani $144,552.

Among the 140 employees in the database, they are the only two who are identified as definitely earning six figures, although five others are in a pay range that tops out above $100,000.

Two student helpers are the lowest-paid at $10,716.

• Some of the widest pay ranges in local government can be found among the top-paid employees of the Department of Health.

Fifty employees, most of them psychiatrists, are in salary ranges with a top level of $313,740. The bottom of the range for almost all is $191,784.

In all, 2,674 department employees are included in the database. For those with set salaries, Hawaii State Hospital administrator Bimmie Strausser is the top-paid at $299,000. 

Next comes Lani Tsuneishi, state hospital nursing services manager, at $164,652, compared to $156,000 two years ago.

Department Director Bruce Anderson earns $154,812.

The lowest-paid at $10,332 is an intellectual/developmental disabilities individual mentor.

• Ryker Wada makes $154,812 as director of the Department of Human Resources Development, which assists with recruitment, management and retention of state employees, but up to four employees may make more at the high end of their pay ranges.

Two years ago, then-director James Nishimoto was earning $144,552. Wada was then deputy director, earning $132,972. The deputy post is now held by Andrew Garrett, who makes $142,416.

The database contains 87 employees, at least six of which make six-figure salaries. The lowest-paid worker in the department is a human resources assistant making $31,440.

• The Department of Human Services oversees social services, adult and child welfare services, foster care, public benefits, vocational rehabilitation, Med-Quest, public housing and homelessness services.

While salary ranges go as high as $313,740 for top medical employees, the top-paid official with a set salary is Med-Quest Administrator Judy Peterson at $242,820.

Hakim Ouansafi makes $157,116 heading up the Public Housing Authority. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Next-highest in the set salary range is Leslie Tawata, clinical standards administrator, $167,316, followed by Hakim Ouansafi, executive director of the Public Housing Authority, $157,116.

Mark Choi, enterprise officer, gets $150,000, followed by the department director, Pankaj Bhanot, $147,144.

Of 1,975 employees listed in the database, the lowest-paid are 31 workers making $9,984, including general laborers and respite companions.

• The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations deals with labor issues such as unemployment and disability compensation and workplace civil rights.

Among the 459 employees in the database, Director Scott Murakami has the highest set salary at $154,812. Deputy Director Leonard Hoshijo gets $142,416.

Members of the Labor & Industrial Relations Appeals Board and the Labor Relations Board receive from $127,956 to $134,688.

There are at least 21 six-figure earners in the department. The lowest-paid employees are eight work experience trainees at $21,012.

DLNR Suzanne Case at the Legislature.
Suzanne Case is chair of the Board of Land and Natural Resources. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

• The Department of Land and Natural Resources manages natural, cultural and historic resources held in public trust. It has 810 employees listed in the database.

At least 22 of them have six-figure salaries. The highest set salary is $154,812 paid to Suzanne Case, chair of the Board of Land and Natural Resources. Deputy Chair Robert Masuda makes $142,416, while Deputy Director Marvin Manuel gets $138,552.

A student helper is the lowest-paid employee at $9,984.

• The Governor’s Office saw some significant departures earlier this year, including Chief of Staff Mike McCartney and principal advisor Ford Fuchigami. Linda Chu Takayama took over as chief of staff Aug. 1, but the database of 35 employees reflects the roster as of July 1.

After Ige at $165,048 (two years ago he made $155,592), the top-paid employees are Keith Yamamoto, director of the executive management team, $135,636, and Cindy McMillan, director of communications, $131,088.

The lowest-paid were two communications specialists at $18,756.

• The Lieutenant Governor’s Office has 11 employees listed in the database, including Lt. Gov. Josh Green at $162,552.

The next highest earners are Brooke Wilson, chief of staff, at $130,008; and Jeremy Lakin, deputy chief of staff, $100,008.

An administrative assistant is the lowest paid at $40,008.

Director Public Safety Nolan Espinda in presser with Governor Ige.
Director of Public Safety Nolan Espinda, left, weathered legislative criticism earlier this year to keep his job with the support of Gov. David Ige. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

• The Department of Public Safety oversees the Corrections Division, which includes jails and prisons, and the Law Enforcement Division, which includes narcotics enforcement and the state sheriff’s office.

With pay ranges that top out at $313,740, nine psychiatrists and physicians are likely the top-paid employees.

Director Nolan Espinda earns $154,812. Other top earners among those with set salaries include:

• Gavin Takenaka, mental health branch administrator, $144,816.

• Three deputy directors, Jodie Maesaka-Hirata, corrections; Maria Cook, administration; and Renee Hong, law enforcement, all at $142,416.

At least 43 employees earn six-figure salaries.

• The Department of Taxation has at least eight employees earning six-figure salaries. They include senior executive assistant Rona Suzuki at $153,372 and department director Linda Takayama, now the governor’s chief of staff, at $147,444.

Two others are Damien Elefante, deputy director, $135,636; and Ted Shiraishi, administrative rules officer, $125,328.

In all, 400 employees are included in the database.

• The Department of Transportation has 2,304 employees in the database, including at least 26 six-figure earners.

Director Jade Butay makes $154,812, while two deputy directors, Edwin Sniffen and Ross Higashi, earn $142,416. Two other deputy directors, Derek Chow and Lynn Aroki-Regan, make $138,552.

Two student helpers are the lowest paid at $9,984.

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