The highest paid County Chief Executive Officer in the state in Susan Muranishi of Alameda County. In 2011, her total compensation package exceeded $638,000, including $214,894 in pension and benefit costs. When she retires, her pension will be in excess of $400,000 per year.

It’s the latest story to emerge regarding executive pay in California, where voters and residents have been particularly scrutinizing in the wake of the Bell Scandal. However, some Supervisors were quick to come to her defense.

In Alameda County, Muranishi is the executive of a 9,000-employee organization with an annual budget of $4.8 billion – something that some say is akin to running a Fortune 500 company.  And there are reports her Muranishi regularly working until early in the morning, which is cited as evidence of her dedication and value.

Muranishi’s salary of $301,000 is augmented with equity pay – a clause that ensures she makes 10 percent more than anyone in the County. Adding that $24,000, roughly $54,000 a year in “longevity”, an annual performance bonus of $24,000, $9,000 a year for serving on the county’s three-member Surplus Property Authority, and a  $8,292-a-year car allowance – her compensation package reaches $23,664. The County then pays $214,894 for her pension and benefits, bringing her total compensation to $638,558.