Dozens of staff members from the previous BC Liberal government were paid settlements in excess of $100,000 after the NDP took over, according to documents obtained by CTV News.

The records show the highest settlement, $540,955, was paid to Kimberly Henderson, who served as former premier Christy Clark's deputy and head of the B.C. Public Service.

That's more than an elected MLA makes in five years, and more than the average family in the province earns in seven years.

Watchdog Integrity B.C. said by the time a new government comes in, it's often too late to avoid such pricey payouts because previously signed contracts have to be honoured.

"It's a shame for B.C. taxpayers," executive director Dermod Travis told CTV News.

"It's not even comparable to what you see in other provinces, what you see at the federal level. And in fact MLAs who retire or get defeated have a worse severance package from the B.C. legislature. It's completely out of proportion."

Another 24 staffers were paid between $100,163 and $474,552. The latter was for Athana Mentzelopoulos, who served as deputy minister of corporate priorities and, more recently, as deputy finance minister.

The documents, which were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, list the top payments for the 133 Liberal appointees who were fired. The NDP has said those staff members received a combined total of $11.3 million.

Finance Minister Carole James defended the severance payments as a necessary evil, arguing that incoming governments need to bring in new staff to tackle their agenda.

"As you know, when there's a change in government there's often a change in staff, and sometimes that results in severance that's required by labour law," James said.

The NDP would not say whether the new staffers coming in will get similar golden handshakes if they're fired. Integrity B.C. urged the government to implement changes that would bring the province more in line with the rest of the country.

"If they don't tackle this issue we'll see the same issue the next time the government changes," Travis said.

With files from CTV Vancouver's Jon Woodward