Madison employee salaries

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Madison is the capital city of Wisconsin. The city employs more than 3,000 people.[1]

Salaries

Sunshine Review filed a Wisconsin Open Records Law request seeking information on public employee salaries, focusing on those with an annual income of $150,000 or higher for the years 2008 to 2011. Madison officials responded to Sunshine Review's request with a note that no city employee earned an annual salary of $150,000 or more during those years.[2]

However, according to a salary database published by The Wisconsin State Journal, several employees earned over $150,000 during those years. Director of Planning Development Mark Olinger earned $169,439.15 in 2010.[3] In 2009, Comptroller Dean Brasser earned $151,551.04.[4]

An earlier Sunshine Review report noted that, in 2009, the highest-paid city bus driver earned over $159,000, $79,000 which was in overtime, while seven other bus drivers made more than $100,000.[5]

2010 salaries over $125,000

According to the database, there were 15 city employees who earned more than $125,000 in 2010.[6]

  • Fire Chief Debra Amesqua earned $132,790.84.
  • Clifford Blackwell, who works in the city civil rights division, earned $126,498.09.
  • Assistant Fire Chief Paul Bloom earned $125,407.04.
  • Comptroller Dean Brasser earned $146,356.97.
  • Assistant Police Chief John Davenport earned $131,418.76.
  • Assistant Fire Chief Michael Dirienzo earned $132,112.08.
  • Traffic Engineer David Dryer earned $126,215.32.
  • Assistant Police Chief Randall Gaber earned $131,400.39.
  • Monona Terrace Director James Hess earned $126,473.74.
  • Assistant City Attorney Carolyn Hogg earned $133,024.60.
  • City Attorney Michael May earned $139,391.72.
  • Director of Planning Development Mark Olinger earned $169,439.15.
  • City Engineer Robert Phillips earned $126,690.66.
  • Streets Superintendent Alan Schumacher $132,207.01.
  • Police Chief Noble Ray earned $139,890.74.

2009 salaries over $125,000

  • Assistant City Attorney Roger Allen earned $126,592.05.
  • Fire Chief Debra Amesqua earned $136,163.46.
  • Police Captain Richard Boch earned $125,254.73.
  • Assistant Fire Chief Paul Bloom earned $132,872.80.
  • Comptroller Dean Brasser earned $151,551.04.
  • OV Director Thomas Carto earned $129,566.26.
  • Assistant Police Chief John Davenport earned $134,382.33.
  • Assistant Fire Chief Michael Dirienzo earned $133,144.07.
  • Traffic Engineer David Dryer earned $130,830.91.
  • Assistant Police Chief Randall Gaber earned $136,247.83.
  • Police Captain Carl Gloede earned $128,750.30.
  • Monona Terrace Director James Hess earned $126,593.36.
  • Assistant City Attorney Carolyn Hogg earned $138,083.61.
  • Assistant Fire Chief James Kieken earned $133,589.10.
  • City Attorney Michael May earned $143,433.80.
  • Bradley Murphy, director of planning unit, earned $126,363.15.
  • Transit Operator John Nelson earned $159,258.17.
  • Assistant City Attorney Katherine Noonan earned $126,709.
  • Director of Planning Development Mark Olinger earned $136,786.90.
  • Assistant City Attorney Robert Olsen earned $125,261.
  • Transportation Operator Gregory Tatman earned $125,598.19.
  • Police Chief Noble Ray earned $143,585.23.

2008 salaries over $125,000

  • Fire Chief Debra Amesqua earned $125,611.89.
  • Comptroller Dean Brasser earned $141,932.62.
  • Assistant Police Chief John Davenport earned $125,198.24.
  • Assistant Fire Chief Michael Dirienzo earned $127,433.27.
  • Assistant Police Chief Randall Gaber earned $125,117.08.
  • Assistant City Attorney Carolyn Hogg earned $128,624.20.
  • Traffic Operations Manager Richard Jerdee earned $133,551.12.
  • City Attorney Michael May earned $133,768.17.
  • City Engineer Larry Nelson earned $140,937.68.
  • Assistant City Attorney Larry O'Brien earned $130,107.19.
  • Police Chief Noble Ray earned $132,595.61.

Elected officials

Madison officials provided salaries for elected officials for the years 2008 to 2010.[7]

2010 salaries

  • Mayor David Cieslewicz earned $112,880.56.
  • Most city aldermen earned $7,545.96.
  • Alderman Timothy Breuer earned $8,276.31.
  • Mark Clear, council president, earned $9,585.10.
  • Lauren Cnare, council president pro tem, earned $8,190.60.

2009 salaries

  • Mayor David Cieslewicz earned $117,222.12.
  • Most city aldermen earned $7,379.19.
  • Aldermen Ellen Weber, Eli Judge, Brenda Konkel and Timothy Gruber earned $2,034.13.
  • Aldermen Christopher Schmidt, Bryon Eagon, Shiva Bidar-Sielaff and Steven King earned $5,345.06.
  • Council President Timothy Bruer earned $9,827.53.
  • Council President Pro Tem Mark Clear earned $8,269.15.

2008 salaries

  • Mayor David Cieslewicz earned $112,880.56.
  • Most city aldermen earned $6,974.16.
  • Alderman Elizabeth Monson earned $2,034.13.
  • Alderman Michael Verveer earned $7,648.89.
  • Alderman Zachariah Brandon earned $4,940.03.
  • Council President Timothy Bruer earned $8,858.11.
  • Council President Pro Tem Mark Clear earned $7,569.93.

Benefits

Sunshine Review filed a Wisconsin Open Records Law request seeking information on benefits in dollars paid by public employees for the years 2008 to 2011. City officials did not provide information on the types of benefits employees are offered, but did provide information on the amount in dollars city elected officials pay for benefits.[8]

2010 benefits in dollars

  • Mayor David Cieslewicz paid $21,677.34.
  • Most city aldermen paid $577.32.
  • Mark Clear, council president, paid $733.28.
  • Lauren Cnare, council president pro tem, paid $626.62.
  • Alderman Timothy Breuer paid $633.18.

2009 benefits in dollars

  • Mayor David Cieslewicz paid $21,791.49.
  • Most city aldermen paid $564.54.
  • Aldermen Ellen Weber, Eli Judge, Brenda Konkel and Timothy Gruber paid $155.61.
  • Aldermen Christopher Schmidt, Bryon Eagon, Shiva Bidar-Sielaff and Steven King paid $408.93.
  • Council President Timothy Bruer paid $751.82.
  • Council President Pro Tem Mark Clear paid $632.60.

2008 benefits in dollars

  • Mayor David Cieslewicz paid $20,934.96.
  • Most city aldermen paid $533.52.
  • Alderman Elizabeth Monson paid $155.61.
  • Alderman Michael Verveer paid $585.15.
  • Alderman Zachariah Brandon paid $377.91.
  • Council President Timothy Bruer paid $677.65.
  • Council President Pro Tem Mark Clear paid $579.08.

Types of benefits offered to city employees are listed on the city website.

Phone use

Sunshine Review filed a Wisconsin Open Records Law request seeking information on cellular and mobile devices assigned to city employes. According to city data, dollars spent on cellular telephones for the years 2008 to 2010 were:[9]

City of Madison cell phone expenses
Year Amount budgeted Amount spent
2008 $164,274 $281,496.02
2009 $236,794 $330,688.34
2010 $297,140 $319,754.87

Car use

Sunshine Review filed a Wisconsin Open Records Law request seeking information on automobiles issued to city employees, particularly those allowed to be driven home. According to data provided by the city, 27 city employees were assigned automobiles that could be driven home.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12]

For comparison:[11]

  • 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.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15] 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.[15] The authors of the study recommend three steps towards addressing the problem of high costs in pensions.[15] 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.[16][17] 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.[13][12] 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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