Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Cabinet Compensation Needs Review

The controversy over city car use as a perk for cabinet members brought to mind the fact that not much information has been made public on the current salaries of these top officials. To that end, Plaintalker filed an OPRA request and got the results today.

As much as Council President Rashid Burney frets over denial of 24-hour car use as a possible deal breaker in hiring future top administrators, it appears there are much larger considerations regarding compensation.

For example, of the three department heads mandated in the City Charter, only one receives a salary exceeding the maximum 2005 salary amount as detailed in a 2004 ordinance passed by the City Council. One other receives $20,310 less than the 2005 maximum and also holds a new cabinet post at apparently no charge. The third department head, no longer with the city, apparently agreed to accept $12,460 below the 2005 maximum.

So why is a city-provided car cost of $1,200 or even triple that amount being touted as a deal breaker?

At one point, years ago, all three department heads received the same salary. Then the Public Safety director came under a state rule that the director’s salary had to exceed that of the police chief, which in turn had to exceed that of captains. But the current Public Safety salary appears to be an accommodation to special negotiations.

The council’s Finance Committee must look into this situation in case the city needs to attract top professionals in the future. Realistically, not all candidates will have other income sources that will permit them to discount their city compensation.

According to the information picked up Wednesday, even the city administrator is being compensated below the 2005 maximum.

This schedule needs review. In recent years, only the salaries of City Clerk Laddie Wyatt and former Chief Financial Officer Peter Sepelya were increased by ordinance. The rest of the non-union employees have not received a salary increase by ordinance.

One most curious circumstance revealed in the OPRA request is that no salary ordinance was ever passed for the position of Police Director that was established last year. The new title followed abolishment of the office of police chief and the appointment of an acting director will expire on March 20.

Comparing the roster of titles and salaries requested in the OPRA request with the 2005 ordinance, it is obvious that other disparities exist and need to be discussed. For example, the statutory title of health officer had a maximum salary of $99,034 in 2005, but was last paid at $83,726 and is currently listed as vacant.

Some other titles are statutory, meaning they must be filled by certified individuals, but Plainfield is currently making do with a part-time Chief Financial Officer at $58.83 per hour.

So enough with the hoo-ha over cars, let’s figure out how Plainfield will get the next round of highly qualified cabinet staff for the ongoing hard times.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So much for the myth of the 'underpaid' government workers!!

11:27 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home