NMG’s Bakst wins Best of States for scoop on officials’ salary jumps

Brian Bakst

Brian Bakst

St. Paul newsman Brian Bakst, a News Media Guild member, won last week’s AP Best of the States award for a scoop on big salary increases that boosted the pay of dozens of local officials to more than Minnesota’s governor earns. He reported this just as the state was considering pay raises for its top employees.

Bakst was working on a routine story when he noticed salaries listed on a city/county website. He saw that one local official appeared to be making substantially more than the governor.

He then investigated what had happened after Minnesota’s Legislature relaxed a rigid salary cap that tied salaries for local officials to the governor’s.

Over several weeks, he compiled data from 126 Minnesota cities and counties, then reported the subsequent sharp rise in salaries of city and county top employees _ for some positions a jump of more than $40,000 in about eight years.

Bakst found at least 145 city or county officials made more than the governor’s $120,303, on top of receiving car allowances and other benefits.

Bakst also emailed his spreadsheet with localization tips to Minnesota AP members as part of the package’s promotion three days ahead of publication. He won Page 1 play across the state, while some members ran their localized version using Bakst’s data but credited the AP.