In VT, state psychiatrist makes $40,000 more than governor

BYaël Ossowski | Vermont Watchdog

All of the problems in Vermont seem bad enough to warrant paying big for mental health professionals.

A recent examination of the employee state compensation database in Vermont shows the highest-paid public employee in the state is a “private secretary” for the Department of Mental Health.

While he’s not actually a secretary, his job title has not yet been publicly disclosed as allowed by state law.

The employee in question is Dr. Richard G. Munson, a licensed psychiatrist who earns $186,035 a year in state salary not including benefits, according to the Vermont Agency of Administration.

That’s about $40,000 more than Gov. Peter Shumlin‘s annual salary of $145,538, who only ranks as the fourth-highest paid public employee in the Green Mountain State.

According to his online biography, Munson puts in hours at the Department of Mental Healthand the University of Vermont as a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry. His office appears to be in a state administration building in downtown Waterbury, according to state records.

Attempts to reach Munson at his office were unsuccessful.

As for why he’s declared a private secretary, state officials say it’s allowed to be vague, according to law.

“Those are the classifications covered under the bargaining unit,” said Susan Zeller, the Chief Performance Officer for the state. “These are not the real titles given to employees.”

According to Zeller, the title of “private secretary” is used because state law allows certain departments to have up to three general titles for select employees, not necessarily related to the work they perform. This means public employees could be receiving large salaries without official titles or positions within the government.

Zeller told Vermont Watchdog the title exemption also applies to her current position of chief performance officer, which will rarely appear in state records.

“I’m sure if you look me up, I’ll be a principal assistant next year,” she said, another vague title used by the Administration Agency.

Their salaries ranged between $152,000 and $178,000,, all for various health departments.

The Department of Health‘s average salary is $54,123, according to the 2013 Workforce Reportreleased by the state Department of Human Resources, and it’s around $52,000 for the Department of Mental Health, where Munson, the state’s highest-paid employee, has a full-time position.

Contact Yaël at and follow him on Twitter @YaelOss.

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, writer, and consumer advocate. His writings and interviews have appeared in newspapers, magazines, and online outlets across the world in multiple languages. He is the founder and editor of Devolution Review and deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center. He was previously a national investigative reporter at He has a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) from the CEVRO Institute in Prague, and a Bachelor's in Political Science from Concordia University, Montreal. He currently splits his time between Vienna, Austria and Charlotte, North Carolina.
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