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STEVE BAILEY | DOWNTOWN

Good job(s), good wages

If state workers represented by the National Association of Government Employees are unhappy with their new contract -- pay increases that average less than 2 percent a year -- they can do what their overpaid union boss does: work a second job.

David Holway, the gruff 6-foot-3 president of Quincy-based NAGE, is becoming a model for working stiffs everywhere. If CEOs can get overpaid for running their places into the ground, then why can't the working man? Be like Dave and you can get yours, too. Holway is doing it not once but twice -- and at the same time. Where do I sign up?

As previously reported here, Holway made $240,147 last year as head of a union with just 46,000 members. That is slightly more than the president of his international, Andrew Stern, made for running the entire Service Employees International Union, which has 35 times the members that Holway's SEIU local has. Stern is one of the labor movement's most dominant players; under Holway, NAGE has lost $3.7 million over the last two years.

Holway calls himself a reformer, but he got his job the old-fashioned way: by helping to depose his predecessor and onetime pal, NAGE founder Ken Lyons, a union man with his own considerable baggage. If Holway is a union reformer, it is a better bet than any you'll get at Suffolk Downs that he is the only union reformer anywhere who runs a horse breeders association on the side -- and gets paid handsomely for it. NAGE and the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Breeders Association, an unlikely pairing, do have at least two things in common: Both are run by Holway, and both are hurting financially.

Neither Holway nor the SEIU will talk about his second job. ''Have fun," Holway told me, and hung up. ''Good luck on your story," says SEIU spokesman Ben Boyd. ''I'll have no comment from a SEIU perspective on Mr. Holway."

Let's go to the records then. According to the organization's website, board minutes, and the state auditor's office, Holway is the executive director of the breeders association, a group designed to encourage thoroughbred breeding in Massachusetts. The group's website lists Holway's home -- the one in Cambridge, not the one in Martha's Vineyard -- as its mailing address. Suzanne Swaim, who answers the phone at the association, at first confirmed that Holway is the executive director, but then called back in a panic to say he was only ''covering" for his sick brother who is executive director. Not so, says the state auditor's office, which earlier this year completed an audit: David Holway is the executive director -- even if he doesn't want to talk about it.

It is good work if you can get it. The group is funded through a small levy on races at Suffolk Downs. In 2003, for instance, the group received $1.5 million from Suffolk Downs, the auditor's report says. The group's website notes that Holway, a longtime lobbyist who cut his teeth on Beacon Hill working for a fellow Cambridge homeboy, former House Speaker Charles Flaherty, worked ''without charge" to help secure that funding. What it doesn't note, but the auditor's report does, is that Holway gets 7.5 percent of the group's revenue from the track, or about $112,000 in 2003 using that formula. He would have been paid about $106,000 the previous year using the same formula.

On top of that, the state auditor's report found Holway had been overpaid by the association twice in the past few years, including nearly $11,000 in 2001. As for the thoroughbred association itself, the audit found the group's checking accounts were a shambles. The bottom line, according to the auditor's report: The association's ''ability to meet its financial obligations, and its future, is questionable."

If the worst does happen at the thoroughbred association, Dave Holway will still have his day job to fall back on. The union members who pay his salary should be so lucky.

Steve Bailey is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at bailey@globe.com or at 617-929-2902.

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