Waukesha County Sheriff, Wisconsin

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Waukesha County Sheriff salaries are public records under the Wisconsin Open Records Law.

Salaries

According to the office's webpage, the starting salary for a Deputy Sheriff recruit is $19.12 per hour. The maximum salary for a Deputy Sheriff is $27.49 per hour, excluding overtime and educational incentives.[1]

Waukesha County Sheriff's Office salaries for 2010 are provided online by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Only two employees were listed as having earned over $100,000 in total pay. The top 10 highest-paid Sheriff's Office employees were:[2]

Name Position Overtime and compensatory pay Total Pay
Stephen A. Marks Inspector $0 $105,645.00
Michael D. Giese Jail Administrator $0 $102,445.00
Daniel J. Trawicki Sheriff $0 $96,751.00
James H. Briesemeister Deputy Sheriff $33,736.00 $96,749.00
Eric J. Severson Deputy Inspector $0 $94,069.00
Charles W. Elftman Deputy Sheriff $31,340.00 $93,383.00
Matthew E. Thompson Deputy Sheriff $30,321.00 $92,916.00
Margaret E. Schnabl Senior Correctional Facility Manager $0 $90,165.00
David J. Carpenter Deputy Sheriff $21,641.00 $89,618.00
Kurt K. Kveen Deputy Sheriff $26,312.00 $89,063.00

The office's 2011 adopted budget contained total expenditures of $37,539,718. Of that total, $30,405,947, or over 80%, was dedicated to personnel costs. The full-time employee equivalent for this expenditure was listed as 371.69.[3]

Benefits

The county pays for 90% of employees' health and dental insurance, while employees cover 10% of the cost. Employees receive county-paid life insurance. The county likewise pays for participation in the Wisconsin Retirement Fund.[1]

An educational incentive pays $37.00 extra per month for an Associate's Degree or 60 credits towards a Bachelor's Degree. A Bachelor's Degree earns approximately $129.00 per month. Employees earn one day of sick leave per month, up to 120 days. Sheriff's Office employees earn 10 vacation days after one year of employment, 15 days after seven years, 20 days after 14 years, and 25 days after 23 years. They receive 11 paid holidays per year.[1]

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.[4] 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.[5]

For comparison:[4]

  • 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.[6]

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.[7]

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.[8] 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.[8] The authors of the study recommend three steps towards addressing the problem of high costs in pensions.[8] 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.[9][10] 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.[6][5] 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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References