Philly sheriff denies misuse of funds when requesting pay raises for herself and top staff

The sheriff is accused of requesting a salary increase that would have made her the highest-paid elected official in the city.

Rochelle Bilal speaks at a podium.

Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal and Chief Deputy Vernon Muse announce the commencement of Operation Priority Takedown, an interdepartmental operation aimed at reducing gun violence. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal is denying allegations that she used funds allocated to hire more deputies to instead give salary raises to herself and other top staffers.

A report from The Philadelphia Inquirer Tuesday accuses Bilal of requesting a salary increase of more than double her $136,083 salary. If approved, the request would have made her the highest-paid city official, even over Mayor Jim Kenney.

A spreadsheet obtained by the Inquirer shows requests for raises as high as 86% for one worker; that staffer ultimately received a 24% increase; another top staffer received a 58% pay raise.

That same spreadsheet requested a 109% hike for Bilal — effectively bringing her annual salary to $285,000. Bilal eventually got a 5% increase, the annual cap for elected officials in Philadelphia’s city charter.

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An accompanying memo dated November 21, 2022, showed how the department justified using Class 100 funding, usually for salaries, to pay for the increases of top staffers. It said challenging labor markets were being used to explain the raises.

“Absolutely no money was spent on salary increases that was meant for deputies,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement responding to the reports. “This funding was meant to address salary issues for exempt employees. There is a multistage process, across city departments, that was followed by the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office.”

The statement went on to say, “The Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office, consistent with other city agencies and departments, pays its exempt employees based on a variety of factors, including experience and academic qualifications.”

The sheriff’s statement ended by saying the allegations in the article were “baseless” and that the newspaper “wants the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office abolished.”

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