Top public-employee earner? Guess who

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Then-Superintendent Arlene Ackerman addresses a rally in front of Philadelphia School District headquarters in March 2011. (Ron Tarver / Staff Photographer)

IF YOU THOUGHT former Philadelphia Schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman's severance package was outrageous, you probably won't be surprised to learn that she earned Pennsylvania's top public-employee salary in the last two years.

A study released yesterday by Sunshine Review, a nonprofit organization that advocates transparency in state and local government, revealed the salaries of the highest-earning public employees from eight selected states.

Seven of the nine who received the highest Pennsylvania public salaries worked in Philadelphia. Pittsburgh Paramedic Crew Chief Jerome Waske and Bucks County Chief Operating Officer David Sanko were the only two non-Philadelphians to make the list.

The top four salaries for Pennsylvania public employees:

* Ackerman - $348,140 (2010)

* Sam Gulino, Philadelphia medical examiner - $239,200 (2011)

* Mayor Nutter - $198,658 (2011)

* Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey - $195,000 (2011)

Nutter refused his cost-of-living adjustment and agreed to take two weeks of furlough, so his salary was cut by 10 percent and now stands slightly lower than reported by Sunshine Review, at $170,935.

But Ramsey's salary is higher than reported in the study. After accepting a $60,000 pay raise from the mayor, Ramsey's salary grew to $255,000 this spring.

Using data from 2008 to 2011, Sunshine Review ranked the eight states by the number of public employees earning more than $150,000. Despite the comparatively high salaries in Philadelphia, the state of Pennsylvania ranked sixth of eight, with only 50 public employees earning more than $150,000.

California came in first, with 1,332 high-earning public employees.

Pennsylvania had the best record of the eight states in responsiveness to public-records requests.

The other states in the study were New Jersey, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Texas and Wisconsin.