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These are the highest paid public employees in North Dakota

North Dakota public entities paid out more than a billion dollars in wages, overtime and bonuses this year. Here's who took home the biggest public paychecks.

Dr. Joshua Wynne
Dr. Joshua Wynne, dean of the University of North Dakota medical school.
Forum file photo
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BISMARCK — North Dakota’s public agencies and institutions of higher education have paid out more than a billion dollars in wages, overtime and bonuses in 2021. The list of top public earners includes names that would be familiar to university alumni, sports fans and state government observers.

The highest paid public employee in the state remains Dr. Joshua Wynne, who serves as the vice president for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of North Dakota. Wynne made more than $695,000 through the first 11 months of the year, according to records obtained by Forum News Service.

brad berry.jpg
University of North Dakota men's hockey coach Brad Berry speaks with players during a game. Forum News Service photo

Amid another successful season in Grand Forks, UND Hockey Coach Brad Berry ranked second on the payrolls at public universities, earning nearly $580,000 through November. Two of Berry's assistants, Dane Jackson and Karl Goehring, each made more than $200,000.

North Dakota State University Football Coach Matt Entz pulled in close to $400,000 through November, while UND Football Coach Bubba Schweigert earned nearly $250,000.

Despite the six-figure salaries, North Dakota is one of only a few states where the best-compensated public employee is not a college sports coach.

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In all, the university system and public higher education institutions paid out $419.3 million in wages and $1.7 million in overtime and bonuses to about 6,900 workers through November.

State government agencies paid about 14,500 workers a total of $557.9 million in base wages this year, an increase of 7% over 2020. The State Mill and Elevator, a public agency that does not take taxpayer funds, paid out $12.8 million in wages.

The state also dispensed $15.8 million in overtime, a slight drop over last year, and $8.5 million in bonuses, a 140% increase over last year.

Of the bonuses given to employees, about $2.8 million rewarded employees for good performance, $1.8 million went out as incentive pay to health care employees and $3.8 million served as recruitment or retention bonuses for in-demand workers.

Joe Morrissette, the director of the state Office of Management and Budget, said bonuses may have risen because agencies were more likely to hand out the extra checks as the two-year budget cycle drew to a close in June. He also noted that the rewards for health care workers contributed to the surge in bonus pay.

Agencies can only pay bonuses to employees if they have room left over in their budgets, usually from positions they couldn't fill, Morrissette said.

Dr. Eduardo Yabut, a physician with the Department of Human Services, was the top-earning employee at a state agency, making $606,000 in 2021. Former Bank of North Dakota CEO Eric Hardmeyer earned the most among non-physicians.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem took home the most among executive officeholders, earning $164,000. Salaries for elected officials are set in state law.

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Among lawmakers, the four party leaders — Sens. Rich Wardner and Joan Heckaman and Reps. Chet Pollert and Josh Boschee — as well as longtime Sen. Ray Holmberg, earned the most, each getting around $40,000.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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