The state Legislative Services Office director is defending bonuses paid to all his agency's staffers, telling legislators email that rewarding and motivating employees, especially in tough times, is part of his duty.

LSO Director Jeff Youtz's note to lawmakers came on Monday, following media reports about $167,000 in one-time bonuses for 102 state employees at six agencies. The bulk of that - almost $95,000 - went to LSO staffers, who each got a bonus ranging from $1,281 to $1,984, records show.

"While balancing the budget can be tough, you take what you are given without complaint and make your agency function in the best way possible for our citizens," Youtz wrote. "The legislature and the governor have demanded a smaller, leaner and more efficient government, but that does not mean you throw out your commitment to the exceptional staff who are doing more with less."

The bonuses have raised eyebrows in some circles, coming as agencies throughout state government have dealt with the sluggish economy and slashed budgets through staff furloughs, layoffs and keeping vacant positions unfilled.

At LSO, six full-time and five seasonal positions were trimmed, along with staff furloughs and cuts to operational expenses in the last three years, Youtz wrote, adding that the savings from downsizing allowed him to give the one-time payments while still returning thousands back to the state's general fund.

"I'm not complaining, and in fact this type of experience is good, forcing an evaluation of proper and essential government services," he said. "The taxpayer deserves no less of an effort. But if agency directors or public officials do not find ways to recognize, reward and motivate employees, particularly in tough times, they are not fulfilling their responsibilities to the public."

You can read my full story, which has reactions from state legislators, and all of Youtz's memo," target="_blank">here. 


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