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Executive director’s pay raise comes under fire

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Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 12:00 pm

By Mason Lerner

Killeen Daily Herald

TEMPLE — Eldon Tietje, executive director of the Central Counties Center for Mental Health and Mental Retardation, found himself on the hot seat regarding his salary at a board of trustees meeting Tuesday.

On June 12, an ad hoc committee recommended raising Tietje's salary from $103,735 to $144,328. Tietje also would receive benefits worth $36,270, bringing his total salary and benefits to $180,598.

The board started off the meeting with a public announcement of a $436,407 block grant MHMR will receive from the Department of State Health Services. Ninety percent of the grant will go toward adult mental health and 10 percent is earmarked for children.

After the announcement, board member Dr. Louella H. Tate brought up the topic of Tietje's raise. She pointed out that MHMR — which provides mental health services to Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas and Milam counties — took a $2 million budget cut in August 2011.

"I just don't see how the center can sustain that without cutting programs," Tate said.

Neal White, who chaired the ad hoc committee that approved the raise, said the recommendation was an attempt to bring the entire institution up to state norms.

"This was not about one person, but bringing the whole staff up to state standards," White said.

Ann King also was on the ad hoc committee. King disseminated a list published by the Texas Tribune detailing Health and Human Services Commission salaries in the state of Texas. King said only nine out of 12,000 of the employees on the list make more than $150,000 annually.

"Trying to sit in a meeting trying to figure out what is what is tough when you do not have the numbers beforehand," King said.

"I have since done my homework," she added.

Tietje said information was supplied before the vote, although he conceded at least one page was missing from the packet received by the ad hoc committee.

He reminded Tate she missed a meeting and was late to another meeting where details were disclosed.

"I'd better take off my earrings because it is about to get ugly in here," Tate responded.

The board passed a motion to send the salary matter back to committee. Neal was the only board member to dissent.

Contact Mason Lerner at mlerner@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7567.

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