Politics & Government

Records show Sen. Ericksen worked nearly full time at EPA while drawing state salary

Sen. Doug Ericksen continues to say he doesn’t know how much he’s being paid for his temporary job with the Environmental Protection Agency, although records of his paychecks show it’s $77.58 per hour.

The hourly rate is equivalent to an annual salary of $161,900, according to public records obtained by the state Democratic Party.

The copies of the earnings statements were the first to show what Ericksen is actually being paid. The Ferndale Republican has maintained, since starting the job Jan. 20, that he didn’t know.

Ericksen is one of 10 people on President Donald Trump’s transition team at the agency and serves as the group’s communications director in Washington, D.C.

He said in February that the gig was expected to last up to 120 days.

Records for the first month of the job show Ericksen was working full-time or nearly full-time for the EPA. He was paid for 72 hours of work between the two week period of Feb. 4-18, and 80 hours during the prior pay period — all while splitting time at the state Capitol.

The federal government had paid Ericksen $11,792 for his work through Feb. 18.

When asked in January how much he would be paid for his job at the EPA, Ericksen insisted he didn’t know.

In a story published on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s website Thursday, he maintained that he still didn’t know what he was getting paid – saying that he saw salary ranges but never looked at the amount because his paychecks were direct deposited.

“I understand how people would say, ‘well how can you do that and not worry about how much you’re being compensated?’ And my response is I’m just thrilled about the ability to serve the president,” Ericksen told OPB, adding he “would do the job for free.”

When called by The Bellingham Herald for comment on Friday, Ericksen answered via an email statement that read: “Sen. Ericksen accepted a temporary job with the EPA. The term of the job was for up to 120 days from first day of work which occurred on January 20, 2017. This is a temporary position that does not include benefits such as health care, retirement, or any paid vacation days.”

The last sentence could be a response to questions about parts of his earnings statements set aside for benefits such as retirement and life insurance. What contributions – if any – went into such benefits was blacked out.

Questions sent to EPA’s human resources about whether temporary workers can sign up for such benefits weren’t answered on Friday.

Ericksen didn’t answer The Herald’s follow-up questions.

While Ericksen has pledged to be present often in Olympia, the EPA job has caused him to miss chunks of time at the Capitol so far this year. Ericksen still is taking his $46,839 legislative salary but says he’s forgoing a $120 day per diem when not in Olympia.

That time away has drawn criticism from lawmakers and constituents who have said he’s holding up Senate work and not adequately representing his district.

A group of voters tried to recall Ericksen, but the petition was dismissed by a Whatcom County Superior Court earlier in March.

Michael Shepard, a Democrat and voter in Ericksen’s district, was one of the people behind the recall effort.

He said on Friday that he and other citizens “are really troubled that we are not getting clear answers from the senator about his pay.”

How can Ericksen be paid for 40 hours a week for a job in D.C., Shepard asked, and be paid for 40 hours a week for a job in Olympia?

“There just aren’t enough hours in the day,” Shepard said. “We still don’t have proof that his position is temporary. For me, that’s really troubling.”

Shepard said he and others will continue to keep the pressure on Ericksen, and that includes mobilizing voter registration efforts in his district.

Ericksen isn’t without his supporters, who on social media praised him for his job in Washington state, for making contacts in D.C. that could help the state, and for his work ethic.

Ericksen, who is chairman of the Senate’s Environment, Technology and Communications Committee, has said his committee is passing legislation, and he is doing his job.

Trump’s proposed federal budget, released Thursday, would slash more than a third of the EPA’s funding if passed by Congress.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

Walker Orenstein: 360-786-1826, @walkerorenstein

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