Once the two legislative leaders were sworn in, Florida Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford immediately hired new chiefs of staff and paid them more than taxpayers pay state Cabinet officials, according to the Miami Herald.
Weatherford hired Kathy Mears as his chief of staff at $145,008 annual salary. Gaetz (R-Niceville) promoted his top aide, Chris Clarke, raising his salary from $77,000 to $150,000.
The leaders of the Florida Legislature are paying 62 top policy advisors and staff directors more than $100,000 a year. And they gave salary increases totaling $252,000 to their 17 highest-paid employees.
Daily News investigative reporter Tom McLaughlin asked Gaetz about the raises.
Gaetz said that Clark deserved the raise because he was “basically a chief operating officer for an entire state.” Outgoing Senate President Mike Haridopolos had two different chiefs of staff during his tenure at the helm. Both were paid $175,000.
President Jeff Atwater’s “salary load” was $1.146 million, Gaetz said, and Haridopolos paid $1.292 in salaries.
Gaetz’s salary load is $1.13 million.