Who are the ‘Big Dogs’ in 2017 – our list of the highest paid Illinois public employees local government? It’s a who’s who of civil servants – but most of which you’ve never heard of – who learned to play with the system for personal gain.
The latest salary and compensation data captured by our organization and posted on OpenTheBooks.com from fiscal year 2017 shows that local governments in Illinois need a much closer examination. With many Americans concentrated in Washington, DC, citizens are not doing enough to stop taxpayer abuse in their own backyards, in their own neighborhoods.
In Illinois, 144 local government unit employees earned more than $ 190,000 and earned more than each governor. These highly paid public employees work for municipalities, counties, health clinics, forest reserves, waters, parks, airports and public transportation, and even some school districts.
See the highest and lowest municipal salaries in 2017 here.
Let’s take a look at a few areas in detail:
- Town and town managers earn more than all 50 state governors
In Illinois, 89 small town and village administrators receive salaries over $ 190,000. Last year, the top five pensionable salaries went to Michael Ellis ($ 273,289) – Village of Grayslake (population 21,101); Robert Kiely ($ 263,287) – Town of Lake Forest (19,375 residents); Richard Nahrstadt ($ 261,582) – Village of Northbrook (33,170 inhabitants); and two directors of the Village of Rosemont (pop. 4,236), Patrick Nagle and Christopher Stephens ($ 255,648).
To complete the top 10, William Wiet ($ 255,257) – City of Aurora (201,110 inhabitants); Reid Ottesen ($ 253,137) – Village of Palatine (69,350 inhabitants); Kenneth Schroth ($ 251,870) – Town of Aurora (population 201,110); Michael Cassady ($ 248,281) – Village of Mt. Prospect (population 54,171); and Dane Bragg ($ 244,024) – Village of Buffalo Grove (population 41,346).
Not only are taxpayers forced to fund the massive salaries of these administrators, but in some cases they are also funding expensive mortgages for their homes. Taxpayers literally subsidize housing expenses with a loan discount built into employment contracts.
For example, in Lake Bluff Village, Village Director Drew Irvin received a $ 200,000 housing loan when he accepted the position in 2007. That same year, Deerfield Kent Street Village Director signed his contract. , receiving a home loan of $ 100,000. When asked, Street said “the down payment requirements for moving to Deerfield were significant and it was part of the compensation deal with the mayor and village council.” We also asked Irvin for comment but received no response.
For small town administrators, the compensation is low until the end of their service. For example, before retiring at the end of 2017, William (Bill) Wiet, director of development for Aurora, received a raise of $ 84,672, up from $ 170,585 in 2016. His final year salary (255 $ 257) is pensionable and taxpayers foot the bill.
Many other directors have granted significant salary increases even with no retirement on the horizon:
- Aurora’s Director of Public Works, Kenneth Schroth, received a salary increase of $ 55,000 from $ 196,296 (2016) to $ 251,870 (2017). We asked for comment and a public relations representative posted this response, citing a change in the size of the city’s department.
- In the small village of Rosemont (4,200 inhabitants), the salary of Mayor Bradley Stephens has increased from $ 169,999 (2016) to $ 222,960 (2017). The pay rise came after Stephens ran unopposed for re-election, adding another four-year term to his 10-year career as mayor. In 2018, Stephens is expected to earn over $ 260,000.
- Thornton Township Supervisor Frank Zuccarelli received a raise of $ 49,699 as his salary increased from $ 173,907 (2016) to $ 223,606 (2017). We contacted Zuccarelli twice for comment, but he did not respond.
- Michael Cassady, Village Manager of Mt. Prospect, received a raise of $ 37,301. Cassady won $ 248,282 (2017) versus $ 210,9981 (2016).
- When Dane Bragg signed a contract extension as village manager at Buffalo Grove, he signed on for four more years of regular pay increases. In 2017, Bragg’s salary increased by $ 26,862. By 2019, Bragg can expect to make $ 267,000.
At the local level, it is not just municipal managers who are mobilizing. Park District bosses earn huge salaries: James Pilmer ($ 239,396) – Fox Valley Park District; Dean Bostrom ($ 217,446) – Hoffman Estates Park District; Liza McElroy ($ 217,075) – Highland Park District.
District chiefs of water, airports, public transport and forest reserves also bring home a lot of money. Here are a few: Brian Dorn ($ 238,610) – North Shore Water Reclamation; Jeffrey Nelson ($ 220,855) – Rock Island County Metro Transit District; Alex Kovach ($ 215,429) – Lake County Forest Reserve.
- Legal Corruption – Top Illinois ‘City Salaried’ Employees Don’t Even Work for the Government
Even the employees of the private sector were plotting for public money. Here is how it goes.
Politically connected private non-profit organizations are integrated Public pension system with pensions supported by taxpayers. Taxpayers have no control over the amount of annual salary awarded to these private organizations, but salaries determine massive lifetime pension payments.
In 2017, two of the base’s top âmunicipalâ salaries went to Peter Murphy ($ 325,313) – Illinois Association of Park Districts and Brett Davis ($ 320,684) – Park District Risk Management Agency. Murphy has earned about $ 3.36 million since 2005. Davis received “only” $ 155,324 in 2005, and since then he has more than doubled his salary.
In 2015, Larry Frang, former executive director of the Illinois Municipal League (IML), retired with an annual pension of $ 169,900. In the last ten years of Frang’s employment, his salary has tripled from $ 130,812 to $ 392,423. His successor, Brad Cole, made $ 244,675 in 2017 after just two years of work. IML is so irresponsible that they did not deposit an IRS tax return since 1979.
- Nerds Who Shine – School District Treasurers
There are 11 cantonal school treasurer employees in Cook County who total six-figure salaries. Robert Grossi of Bloom Township withdrew $ 287,593 last year, the bulk of those expensive treasurer’s paychecks. Bremen Township Treasurer Joseph McDonnell won $ 218,189.
We found two highest paid cantonal school treasurers who are involved in private sector projects. Eugene Varnado earned $ 249,760 as treasurer of the Township of Thorton while running his own accounting firm, Eugene Varnado, LLC. Scott Wheaton earned $ 121,376 as Township Treasurer # 36 in addition to his private law firm, Scott R. Wheaton & Associates. We contacted Wheaton twice for comment, but he did not respond.
There are senior administrators who forgo the Teacher’s Retirement System (TRS) – a system with unfunded liabilities of over $ 100 billion – for the more fully funded Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF). At Waukegan Community SD 60, General Counsel Thomas Morris earned $ 256,292 while Bloomington SD 87 paid $ 230,445 to its CFO and Legal. Tony Sanders, the âCEOâ of the Elgin U-46 area school district, won $ 230,445.
Two cable TV producers employed at Niles School District 219 are making six-figure numbers to run the district’s cable TV station. Michael Hoffman earned $ 102,432, while his colleague Robert Henderson’s salary increased from $ 102,766 in 2016 to $ 220,542 in 2017. We reached out to the Niles 219 school district principal twice for comment. , but he did not respond.
- Base County Employees Raising Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars
DuPage County employees are used to living on the taxpayer’s penny. In 2002, County Administrator Donald Zeilenga raised $ 383,156. In 2009, the head of the state prosecutor’s criminal office, Michael Wolfe, raised $ 240,630. In 2011, County Engineer Charles Tokarski earned $ 340,147. This year, DuPage County âChief of Staffâ Tom Cuculich withdrew $ 209,526, up from $ 98,350 in 2003.
Retirement in DuPage County is a bargain. In his last year as Deputy Chief, Dewey Hartman received $ 324,431 – a bump of $ 159,574 coming out. Chief Sheriff Steven Flanagan’s salary has climbed nearly $ 100,000 in his senior year. In 2017, Flanagan retired with a pensionable salary of $ 258,774, up from $ 159,506 the year before.
It’s not just DuPage. We found other county administrators who brought in huge paychecks. In Lake County, Administrator Barry Burton raised $ 245,005; Assistant Administrator Amy McEwan won $ 175,265; and Deputy Sheriff John Forlenza received $ 176,658.
In Will County, Administrator Richard Ackerson earned $ 193,544; Deputy Sheriff Juliann Budde won $ 163,578; and Deputy Sheriff Robert Contro brought in $ 159,595.
- Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) managers rack up tremendous salary increases
The very people who manage and invest the retirement money of city officials are accumulating huge gains themselves. We call it wage increase: when wages are increased for a short time to increase pensions and milk the system.
Over the past four years, the pensionable salary of Shah Dhvani, IMRF director of investments, has increased from $ 208,003 to $ 391,442. The salary of General Manager Louis Kosiba increased from $ 126,703 in 2001 to $ 270,563 in 2017. This is a salary increase of $ 143,860 for the same position and the same title. These salaries are literally funded by employee retirement money.
At OpenTheBooks.com, we publish our comprehensive Illinois salary data in our award-winning, free mobile app for Apple and Android. Find your hometown here.
The public service is literally defined as “in the service of the people”. Today, however, our officials have figured out how to serve themselves, playing with the system to line their pockets. As long as taxpayers do not demand a change, the gravy train will continue to roll.
Adam Andrzejewski (say: Angie-eff-ski) is the CEO and founder of OpenTheBooks.com. Find out more: Our comprehensive coverage of the 63,000 Illinois public officials earning over $ 100,000 in FY2016 posted on Forbes, Click here.