City of Madison Fire Department, Wisconsin

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City of Madison Fire Department employee salaries are public record under the Wisconsin Open Records Law. Madison, Wisconsin is the capital city of Wisconsin. The city employs more than 3,000 people.[1]

Salaries

Sunshine Review filed a public records request seeking information on city Fire Department employees salaries, focusing on ranking fire officers for the years 2008-2011. The city complied with the request for the years 2008-2010.[2]

Madison Fire Department Salaries
Position 2008 2009 2010
Fire Chief $125,511.42 $135,976.86 $132,542.45
Assistant Fire Chief $119,227.94 $132,729.50 $125,310.39
Assistant Fire Chief $127,433.27 $133,144.07 N/A
Assistant Fire Chief $118,694.09 $132,554.16 $124,715.26
Assistant Fire Chief $107,188.99 $118,511.81 $108,704.07
Assistant Fire Chief $108,852.95 $118,759.76 $124,522.69
Division Fire Chief $102,809.05 $114,418.23 $107,416.70
Division Fire Chief $101,802.16 $L14,342.11 $107,008.14
Division Fire Chief $96,973.17 $108,458.03 $101,935.82
Division Fire Chief $98,189.81 $113,472.68 $106,674.78
Division Fire Chief N/A N/A $105,101.42

The Wisconsin State Journal provides a city employee salary database on its website.[3] The values for fire employees differ slightly from the figures provided by the city.

2010 salaries

  • Fire Chief Debra Amesqua earned $132,790.84
  • Assistant Fire Chief Paul Bloom earned $125,407.04
  • Assistant Fire Chief Michael Dirienzo earned $132,112.08
  • Division Fire Chief Jeffrey Duppler earned $109,074.68
  • Division Fire Chief Richard Kincaid earned $105,483.76
  • Assistant Fire Chief Gregg Knudston earned $124,672.70
  • Division Fire Chief Ernesto Martinez earned $107,404.70
  • Division Fire Chief Michael Popovich earned $107,020.46
  • Division Fire Chief Arthur Price earned $101,935.82
  • Fire Marshall Edwin Ruckriegel earned $106,674.78
  • Division Fire Chief Ronald Schwenn earned $106,674.78

2009 salaries

  • Fire Chief Debra Amesqua earned $136,163.46
  • Assistant Fire Chief Paul Bloom earned $132,872.80
  • Assistant Fire Chief Michael Dirienzo earned $133,144.07
  • Assistant Fire Chief James Kieken earned $133,589.10
  • Division Fire Chief Jeffrey Duppler earned $118,591.42
  • Division Fire Chief Gregg Knudston earned $119,635.62
  • Division Fire Chief Ernesto Martinez earned $114,418.23
  • Division Fire Chief Michael Popovich earned $114,336.11
  • Division Fire Chief Arthur Price earned $108,458.03
  • Fire Marshall Edwin Ruckriegel earned $103,741.29
  • Division Fire Chief Ronald Schwenn earned $113,454.68

2008 salaries

  • Fire Chief Debra Amesqua earned $125,611.89
  • Assistant Fire Chief Michael Dirienzo earned $127,433.27
  • Assistant Fire Chief Paul Bloom earned $119,371.97
  • Division Fire Chief Jeffrey Duppler earned $107,317.19
  • Assistant Fire Chief James Kieken earned $118,694.09
  • Division Fire Chief Gregg Knudston earned $109,038.28
  • Division Fire Chief Ernesto Martinez earned $102,809.05
  • Division Fire Chief Michael Popovich earned $101,802.16

Benefits

Sunshine Review filed a public records request seeking information on benefits in dollars paid by public employees for the years 2008-2011. City officials did not provide information on the types of benefits employees are offered. Types of benefits offered to city employees are listed on the city website.[1]

Car use

Sunshine Review filed a public records request seeking information on department vehicles assigned to employees and allowed to be driven home. According to data supplied by the department, there are ten command officers (one chief, three assistant chiefs, six division chiefs) and the on-call Fire Investigator that have fire department vehicles for after-hours response capability.

Phone use

Sunshine Review filed a public records request seeking information on cellular and mobile devices issued by the department. According to data supplied by the fire department, there were 39 cell phone used within the Madison Fire Department during 2009 and 2010. In 2008 there were 35. Personnel are not reimbursed for personnel cell phone use by the Madison Fire Department.[4]

Salary records project

In 2011, Sunshine Review chose 152 local governments as the focus of research on public employee salaries. The editors of Sunshine Review selected eight states with relevant political contexts (listed alphabetically):

1. California
2. Florida
3. Illinois
4. Michigan
5. New Jersey
6. Pennsylvania
7. Texas
8. Wisconsin

Within these states, the editors of Sunshine Review focused on the most populous cities, counties and school districts, as well as the emergency services entities within these governments. The purpose of this selection method was to develop articles on governments affecting the most citizens.

The salary information garnered from these states were a combination of existing online resources and state Freedom of Information Act requests sent out to the governments.

Importance of public employee pay disclosure

In July 2010, The Los Angeles Times uncovered that officials in Bell, California were making remarkably high salaries.[5] Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo was earning a yearly $787,637. It was later uncovered that Rizzo's total compensation after taking benefits into account topped $1.5 million a year.[6]

For comparison:[5]

  • Manhattan Beach, with about 7,000 fewer people than Bell, paid its most recent city manager $257,484 a year.
  • Long Beach, with a population close to 500,000, paid its city manager $235,000 annually.
  • Los Angeles County paid its chief executive, William T. Fujioka, $338,458.

Corruption solution

After this report was released, governments began to proactively disclose salary information of their employees. Before the end of the summer of 2010, more than a dozen cities in Orange County, for example, posted salary information on the front pages of their websites.[7]

The cost of transparency websites maintaining such information ranges from the tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands. These websites also save money, and this often is not taken into account when measuring costs.

Citizens upset about the breach of trust and armed with information formed a group called the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, which pushed for an independent audit of city salaries and contracts.[8]

Citizens, empowered with information, are key to keeping government free from corruption and efficient. A study published by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia revealed that the city of Philadelphia has a problem with the efficiency and costs of public employee pensions.[9] The amount that Philadelphia pays to pension recipients limits the city’s ability to use its budget effectively.

The report revealed that there were more individuals receiving pension benefits—33,907 claimants in 2006—than workers in the city—28,701.[9] The authors of the study recommend three steps towards addressing the problem of high costs in pensions.[9] First, improve data collection so that decision-making in terms of pension policies is more informed. Second, promote transparency for better accountability to citizens. Third, reduce costs and use the savings for developing Philadelphia.

Resistance to public employee salary data as public records

The idea of making public employee salaries is relatively new. In 2008, several local government employee associations and unions protested the posting of state employee salaries by newspaper The Sacramento Bee.[10][11] At the time, it was seen as a safety risk and invasion of privacy.

Sunshine Review aims in posting salary information

Publicly posted salaries often leave out important information. Salary schedules can be published as ranges, not as specific take-home compensation, and high-level, highly-paid positions are often not disclosed proactively.[7][6] Additionally, salaries leave out compensation received through health and retirement benefits, as well as benefits such as commuter allowances and cell phone reimbursements. This project aimed to close the gap and provide a more accurate picture of public employee salaries for the sake of public education and transparency.

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