For the past week, fourteen different public relations officials for various government agencies in New York have refused to explain why the state failed to pay $75 million owed to contractors working on the SolarCity factory site in South Buffalo—a mistake that forced those contractors to temporarily lay off workers. That story was broken by WGRZ, Buffalo’s NBC affiliate, whose staff later decided to see how much those public relations officials were being paid not to fulfill their most basic job duty. The answer: Over $1.37 million combined.
According to WGRZ’s Michael Wooten, the station collated the salaries using Freedom of Information Law requests submitted to agencies who were involved in the late contractor payments. Of the fourteen officials he names, half were paid over $100,000:
- Empire State Development’s Executive Vice President of Public Affairs — $165,245
- Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Director of Communications — $158,000
- The spokesperson of SUNY Polytechnic — $151,950
- ESD’s Vice President of Communications — $148,791
- Cuomo’s Press Secretary — $144,687.17
- Cuomo’s Senior Deputy Communications Director — $106,391.83
- ESD’s Director of Communications for Western New York — $102,785
If you combine these salaries, then add the salaries of the other seven officials paid less than $100,000, “you get to $1,379,281.16, or well over a million taxpayer dollars,” Wooten writes.
What does a public relations official do, exactly, if they’re not answering reporters’ legitimate questions? Your guess is as good as ours.