June 12, 2024

The Nerve Archive

Where Government Gets Exposed

Plenty of Ports Authority employees in six-figure salary club


More than 200 S.C. Ports Authority employees received at least $100,000 in total wages last fiscal year, with agency president and CEO Jim Newsome making $546,236, records show.

The total number of workers at the state-created agency who made $50,000 or more in fiscal 2020, which ended June 30, was 608, according to the records provided to The Nerve under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.

The law requires public bodies to release the exact annual pay of employees receiving at least $50,000 in compensation, though unlike many state agencies, the Ports Authority (SCPA) doesn’t provide that information to the state salary database.

The Nerve in recent weeks has reported about other agencies that aren’t included in the database, including the House and Senate chambers, Santee Cooper, and the Judicial Department, which initially refused The Nerve’s request under the open-records law to release the salaries of its higher-paid employees.

The SCPA defined total wages as regular wages plus overtime pay and bonuses, though the records released to The Nerve didn’t specify whether the additional pay was overtime or bonus amounts, or a combination. An agency spokeswoman didn’t respond to written questions Monday from The Nerve, including how bonuses are determined and who has final say in awarding the payouts.

Of the 608 employees who made at least $50,000 in total wages last fiscal year, 596 received bonuses or overtime pay, according to the records. The additional pay ranged from $989 for an executive assistant to $168,000 for the agency’s information technology director, with an average increase of $16,831, The Nerve’s review found.

Container handler operators made up a third of the total number of $50,000-plus workers in fiscal 2020, records show. The agency’s website says its “700+ employees handle cargo, operate and maintain cargo handling equipment, manage port facilities and operations, and support the port system in a fast-paced 24/7 environment.”

The SCPA owns and operates seaport facilities in the Charleston and Georgetown areas, and “inland” ports in Greer and Dillon.

Newsome and several other high-level employees in the six-figure salary club didn’t receive bonuses last fiscal year, The Nerve’s review found. But Newsome, who has led the SCPA since 2009, is eligible for “incentive compensation” and gets plenty of other perks under his current contract, which was extended in 2015 through Dec. 31, 2021, according to records provided under the Freedom of Information Act.

Newsome’s benefits include, among other things:

  • Four weeks of paid vacation;
  • “(R)easonable home purchase expenses, within the Charleston area”;
  • $1,000 monthly car allowance;
  • A “reasonable allowance for a country club membership”;
  • A dining club membership at the upscale Harbour Club in Charleston;
  • Term life insurance equal to twice the amount of his base salary

Under state law, Newsome answers to a nine-member governing board whose members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. A 10-member legislative committee qualifies board candidates.

The Nerve in October revealed that two members of the SCPA Board of Directors participate in the state health plan, though the law doesn’t allow part-time board members to be covered through the agency.

Two six-figure SCPA employees are registered as state lobbyists, according to State Ethics Commission records.

Following is a list of 15 SCPA employees whose total wages last fiscal year were at least $200,000, with the total amount of bonuses or overtime pay in parentheses, according to agency records:

  • Jim Newsome, president and CEO: $546,236 ($0);
  • Barbara Melvin, chief operating officer: $405,531 ($67,031);
  • Stephen Rauch, information technology director: $348,700 ($168,000);
  • Phillip Padgett: senior vice president, finance/administration: $302,950 ($68,750);
  • Paul McClintock, senior vice president, sales/marketing: $289,436 ($0);
  • Richard Spahr, general manager, software development/application systems: $251,625 ($114,125);
  • Michael Stresemann, senior director, crane/equipment maintenance: $238,949 ($46,250);
  • Beverly Cowart, senior vice president, talent solutions: $238,046 ($40,000);
  • Byron Miller, national accounts director: $222,950 ($43,250);
  • Walter Lagarenne, engineering/permitting director: $212,699 ($41,000);
  • Micah Mallace, national accounts director: $211,700 ($40,000);
  • Abrahim Abdul Kareem, application systems manager: $211,655 ($94,875);
  • William Crowther, customer service director: $209,700 ($40,500);
  • Jordi Yarborough, senior vice president, external affairs: $209,200 ($0);
  • Robert Mozdean, senior vice president, human resources: $204,498 ($42,921)

Brundrett is the news editor of The Nerve (www.thenerve.org). Contact him at 803-254-4411 or rick@thenerve.org. Follow him on Twitter @RickBrundrett. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and Twitter @thenervesc.

Nerve stories are free to reprint and repost with permission by and credit to The Nerve.


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