LISBON - A story about former U.S. Rep. Charles Wilson Jr. granting staff bonuses and additional compensation during his final months in office has drawn criticism from Columbiana County Republican Party Chairman David Johnson.
"Congressman Wilson railed against Wall Street during the campaign, so it's ironic that he chose to reward outgoing staff with bonuses paid for by the American taxpayer," Johnson said, in a news release. "The bonuses are highly inappropriate considering our government faces a deficit in the hundreds of billions of dollars."
The Vindicator newspaper reported Sunday Wilson gave staff bonuses and salary increases during the fourth quarter of 2010 that exceeded the previous three-month period by $119,129.
This was based on information compiled by LegiStorm.com, an online organization that tracks congressional salaries. According to LegiStorm, Wilson's combined quarterly staff payroll expenditures totaled $239,623 during the third quarter (July through September). The figure jumped by 49.7 percent, to $358,752 during the final quarter.
Wilson, D-St. Clairsville, was defeated last Nov. 2 by Republican Bill Johnson and left office at the end of the year. Wilson could not reached for comment, but he told the Vindicator most of the increase reflected unused vacation time due his staff of 21. But 16 of the 21 staffers also received $1,000 bonuses, and two more were awarded $500 bonuses.
Johnson called on Wilson to repay the money to the taxpayers.
"Congressman Wilson's actions helped create this economic mess, and he didn't even slow down once defeated. But the fact remains that he lost and he should be held responsible for the over $120,000 in extra perks and bonuses given to his staff," he said.
Among the local staff receiving increases during the final quarter were:
- Caseworker John Payne, the retired director of the county elections board, who saw his quarterly compensation increase from $13,000 to $19,333.
- Congressional liaison Dennis Johnson, county Democratic Party chairman, whose quarterly compensation increased from $16,125 to $24,208.
- Field representative Linda Presutti of Wellsville, whose quarterly compensation increased from $9,875 to $14,791.
All three also received $1,000 bonuses.
Increasing compensation, for whatever reason, appeared to be a common practice, judging by other information posted online by LegiStorm. The Web site showed Wilson's staff compensation increased by 37 percent, or $87,587, between the third and fourth quarters of 2009.
According to a Wall Street Journal story on the LegiStorm report, congressional staffers are routinely paid bonuses, and the practice is widespread among both Democratic and Republican officeholders.
LegiStorm reported the fourth-quarter increases were the largest in the 10 years since it began gathering data, and the increase in Wilson's fourth-quarter spending was the largest among Ohio's 18 House members.