There’s an old saying, “When the law’s an ass, somebody has to kick it.”
At OpenTheBooks.com, we have completed our annual “Big Dogs” salary report of municipal government. The results are the most stunning ever…
52 city and village managers out-earn every governor of the 50 states. School district treasurers are hauling in up to $485,000. Rank-and-file county employees are racking up $260,000 with massive lifetime pension spikes. But, incredibly, the top three “municipal” employees - with salaries over $300,000 plus - don’t even work for government…
1. 52 Village and City Managers Out-earn Every Governor of the 50 States.In Illinois, the top honors go to administrators of fairly small towns. The top five highest pensionable salaries are Lawrence Hileman ($292,124)- City of Glenview (pop 45,417), Michael Ellis ($258,381)- Village of Grayslake (pop 21,101), Richard Nahrstadt ($251,918)- Village of Northbrook (pop 33,170), Michael Janonis ($241,852)- Village of Mt. Prospect (pop. 54,505), and Christopher Stephens ($240,000)- Village of Rosemont (pop 4,202).
Rounding out the top ten are Reid Otteson ($231,347)- Village of Palatine, Michael Cassady ($228,234)- Village of Bensonville, Robert Bahan ($222,436)- Village of Winnetka, Brian Townsend ($220,342)- Village of Schaumburg, and John Daly ($220,290)- Village of Orland Hills.
It’s not just the managers. City attorneys, utility managers, and even human resource directors are getting in on the salary spiking to pad their pensions. For example, City of Bloomington, Human Resource Director Emily Bell retired with a final year pensionable salary of $252,219. Over the last four years, her salary averaged $122,500, but because of her lucrative last year, Bell will retire on a lifetime pension that will rival her highest active salary.
In the capitol city of Springfield, a stand-alone utility is run at taxpayer cost. Craig Burns ($231,304) and Eric Hobby ($230,930) run the utility and are handsomely compensated. Burns received a salary spike of over $100,000 during the last two years and Hobby is up $115,000 since 2008.
The lawyers are making big bucks and some even have second jobs at prestigious law firms. Thomas Morris, attorney in Waukegan School District 60 pocketed $251,313 while also practicing law at downtown law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP. Dennis Gianopolus extracted $237,358 from Calumet City while also working as a prosecutor for Chicago Heights and running his own law practice. In the City of Joliet, Jeffrey Plyman took in $232,697 in his last year ahead of “retirement.” With a 50 percent final year salary spike, his lifetime pension pads on the backs of taxpayers.
2. Legal Corruption”-- Top Three Illinois “Municipal” Employees Don’t Even Work for Government. Probably the most egregious example of- “insiders gaming the system for personal gain” - are the top three "municipal" salaries of 2014: Illinois Municipal League Larry Frang ($392,423), Illinois Association of Park Districts Peter Murphy ($360,553), and Park District Risk Management Association Brett Davis ($305,278). Employed in the private sector, these chiefs don’t even work for government, but special legislation “muscled” them into the government pension systems. Taxpayers have no control over the amount of annual salary awarded, but it’s the salaries that drive the lifetime pensions.
Larry Frang tripled his pay in ten years, from $130,812 to $392,423, click here to see chart. Peter Murphy has “earned” $2.371 million since 2005 with a 140 percent salary spike from $151,793 to $360,553. Brett Davis has doubled his salary from $155,324 in 2005 to $305,278 in 2014.
It’s quite simply legal corruption when the private employers get in on the action.
3. Nerds that Glitter-- School District Treasurers. The bean counters really have a sweet deal. Thornton Township’s Eugene Varnado pulled in $239,688 while also running his own certified public accounting firm, Eugene Varnado LLC. Bloom Township’s school district treasurer Robert Grossi hauled in $230,318. But, the school treasurer/administrator Mohsin Dada takes the cake. Dada double dipped the Teacher’s Retirement System and the Illinois Municipal pensions for a combined 2014 income of over $485,000! Mohsin’s pension from the Teacher’s Retirement System is over $240,000 and his new income from North Shore School District 112 is $245,880-- up from $202,903 just two years ago in 2012.
Mohsin gets away with this largess because Illinois doesn’t have a prohibition against double dipping pension systems.
4. Rank-and-file county employees raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars. DuPage County has a history of living large. In 2002, county administrator Donald Zeilenga pulled in $383,156. In 2009, the state’s attorney’s criminal bureau Chief Michael Wolfe hauled in $340,630. In 2011, county engineer Charles Tokarski made $340,147. In 2014, DuPage County didn’t disappoint with first assistant state’s attorney Nancy Wolfe’s salary spike of $248,083- significantly padding her lifetime pension.
In fact, in 2014, DuPage County had ten employees collectively earn more than $2.021 million! Now, is that “Moving DuPage Forward”?
5. The managers of the municipal retirement system are racking up terrific pay hikes: Over the last two years, Chief Investment Officer Shah Dhvani’s pensionable salary increased from $208,003 to $286,826. Executive Director Louis Kosiba’s salary has increased from $126,703 in 2001 to $242,518 in 2014- the- same job title and duties and an $116,000 pay hike.
At OpenTheBooks.com, we publish our comprehensive Snapshot Transparency reports on nearly each unit of local government across Illinois. Look up your hometown here. Remember, it’s your property and sales taxes for your local unit of government that drives public salary and pension costs.
The historic definition of public service used to be “to serve the people.” Now, our public servants have figured out how to game the system for personal gain. Until taxpayers say enough is enough, the gravy train will continue to roll on.
Adam Andrzejewski is the Chairman of American Transparency and the Founder of OpenTheBooks.com. At OpenTheBooks.com, 1.6 billion public spending records are posted online including nearly every public salary and pension at every level of Illinois government.
Parsons’ response was disappointing, unprofessional and offensive not so much to us but to taxpayers in his state. His fiduciary responsibility is to follow the open records law, not to hold records for ransom. Someone needs to remind PERC that we now live in an age in which the production of big data public records files is not difficult – this thing called the internet has made the process much easier, and more user-friendly.
In effect, Parsons and Connarton are saying that if taxpayers really want to know this information then, “Sue us.” They are betting that most organizations lack the will or the wallet to enforce transparency. But taxpayers shouldn’t have to file lawsuits to find out how their money is being spent.
Across Illinois (our headquarters, and perhaps the most corrupt state in the nation), we’ve collected all salaries, and pensions. Even City of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel produces salary, pensions and vendor spending annually to us at no cost. Emanuel understands the meaning and importance of open records.
At the state level, we opened the books on vendor spending. The Republican comptroller rejected our request for just one year of the state checkbook claiming an “undue burden” exception. We sued. After a year and $52,000 in legal fees, we received most of the data from 2005-2014. Reviewing the Illinois retirement annuities, we found that a couple of union lobbyists who substitute taught for one day in the public schools will actually collect $1 million state teacher retirement pensions at life expectancy. This occurred even after a special law was passed to stop them.
The evasions in Massachusetts raise a troubling question: What egregious examples are they trying to hide? Incoming Governor Charlie Baker should make statewide salary and pension transparency an immediate priority on day one. And he should demand that PERC drop its $10,000 retainer request. After all, it isn’t his money. If you live in Massachusetts it’s your money, and you deserve better.
Adam Andrzejewski is the founder of OpenTheBooks.com and Chairman of American Transparency. Mission: post “Every dime Online In Real Time” of all federal, state and local public spending