San Diego public hospital administrator paid over $1 million per year

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A hospital administrator in San Diego County turned up on California State Controller John Chiang’s salary database in no. 2 position, just shy of Robert Rizzo – the former City of Bell administrator accused of looting the blue-collar suburb of Los Angeles.

Michael Covert, CEO of Palomar Pomerado Health, a two-hospital public district, was paid $1.15 million in 2009. The information was only disclosed this week after The San Diego Union-Tribune questioned the hospital why its information was not reported last month with other public health care districts. Hospital representatives claimed that it has technical difficulties uploading the salary data to state computers.

Covert declined to discuss his salary with the Union-Tribune, although a hospital official, Theldore Kleiter, said “We have to compete for talent with all of the for-profit and nonprofit health systems. If you want the top management, that’s what you have to pay.”

Others were not as convinced that the million-dollar salary was justified. “Is this really rocket science?” asked Kris Vosbergh of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “We’re talking about paying an administrator more than we pay a doctor, who makes life and death decisions.”

“Essentially, this is a bureaucrat.”

The state salary database project was begun last year to provide the public with accurate information regarding salaries earned by public servants.

“What we found in the absence of transparency is a breeding ground for waste, fraud and abuse,” state spokesman Garin Casaleggio said of the data in general, not any particular person. “This provides the public with a snapshot of what public compensation includes and allows them to weigh the figures along with the public benefit.”

Public hospital employees dominate the top end of the salary database.  Eight of the top twenty public positions are held by hospital administrators and four of the top twenty are physicians.

Other highly paid officials listed in the database include Washington Hospital CEO (Freemont, CA) at $905,084; the Orange County chief counsel at $692,768; the Upper San Gabriel Valley water agency manager at $646,902 and the Downey (pop. 107,000) Police Chief at $623,664.

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