ALBANY'S $100,000-A-YEAR CLUB ISN'T EXCLUSIVE

City retirees among those earning top range; "tougher bargain" sought

JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST
Section: Main,  Page: A1

Date: Saturday, February 18, 2012

ALBANY -- More than 70 city workers scored six-figure incomes last year, a $100,000 club bolstered by retirees who received large payouts for unused sick and vacation time.


In fact, the ranks of city workers who earned more than $100,000 -- at 72 -- were larger than those in any other salary range except those making between $20,000 and $30,000, according to 2011 city payroll records obtained under the state's Freedom of Information Law.


Former Assistant Police Chief Anthony Bruno, who left in August after 22 years to take a job with the state, topped the list at $180,944, the records show.


While Bruno had received just $59,915 of his roughly $98,000 base pay up to the day he left, his total pay was buoyed by $120,029 in "other earnings," a category that includes the value of buyouts that employees receive for unused time off.


While accountings of top municipal earners don't always include those buyouts, some, like city Treasurer Kathy Sheehan and Councilman Frank Commisso Jr., argue including them is essential to understanding the city's true cost of doing business.


According to the records, 1,246 employees earned more than $20,000 in 2011.


"You absolutely have to include that in compensation," said Commisso, a first-term Democrat who represents the 15th Ward and has pushed the city to more clearly account for the costs of benefits like the buyouts.


"I don't really blame the employees. I blame the policy makers in the city," Commisso said. "There's contracts in place that allow for these things to happen. The question is why is the city not driving a tougher bargain?"


A Times Union analysis of buyout numbers between 2006 and 2010 found the average one-time buyout for firefighters was more than $43,000 and just shy of $28,000 for police officers.


According to the city's contracts with its unions, firefighters are allowed to bank and cash in unused sick time, while police officers are paid for unused vacation and comp time .


Mayor Jerry Jennings' administration counters that the city, by and large, is hamstrung by those contracts.


Last year, city officials pleaded poverty as they contested firefighters' pursuit of retroactive raises for 2010 and 2011, but a state arbitration panel last month nonetheless awarded them 2 percent for both years. Those raises are not reflected in the 2011 payroll data reviewed by the Times Union.


Police officers may yet still also receive retroactive raises or those years, as well.


Like Bruno, the rest of the city's top four earners -- two fire department officers and a police commander -- all left their jobs in 2011.


Jennings -- at $136,000 -- ranks fifth on the top earners list, and the mayor once again had the distinction of being tops among city employees who did not leave the city payroll.


The list of top earners also does not include the departure of the city's longest serving police officer, James Leahy, who retired Dec. 31 after four decades on the force. Leahy's $101,651 in earnings was good enough for just 60th on the 2011 list but does not include the $56,000 buyout paid to him in January.


As in years past, police officers and firefighters topped the city's list of overtime earners. None earned more OT than Detective James Olsen at $48,132, according to the payroll records. But Olsen's $121,066 total pay ranked eighth overall.


While four detectives led the individual overtime list and police officers snagged 10 of the top 15 slots, the department as a whole came in about $300,000 under its $4 million 2011 overtime budget, city Budget Director Christopher Hearley said -- a first in years and the fulfillment of a promise Chief Steven Krokoff made to the council more than a year ago.


In recent months lawmakers have instead focused their scrutiny on the fire department's overtime, which overspent its budget by at least $667,000 last year, Hearley said.


The overtime has been fueled by vacancies in the department, which an outside analysis said forces the city to incur large overtime bills just to maintain minimum staffing levels and avoid closing any of its fire companies.


With some council members angry and threatening to block a further increase in fire department overtime requested by Jennings for this year's budget, the two sides ultimately compromised last fall.


Under pressure from the firefighters' union, the Albany Permanent Professional Firefighters Association, the city agreed instead to hire five more firefighters in hopes of reducing the need for overtime and keeping open each of Albany's eight firehouses.


"There's been a concerted effort to really rein in overtime costs," said Jennings spokesman Bob Van Amburgh.


jcarleo-evangelist@timesunion.com - 518-454-5445 - @JCEvangelist_TU





Top earners in 2011


These amounts reflect Albany city employees' total pay, including overtime. Those marked with an (R) retired or otherwise left their city jobs during the year and received buyouts for unused time off.


Name Job Pay


Anthony Bruno Assistant police chief (R) $180,944


Donald J. Urbano Fire lieutenant (R) $159,121


James T. Boggs Fire lieutenant (R) $149,389


Daniel J. Colonno Police commander (R) $142,518


Jerry Jennings Mayor $136,403


Source: City Treasurer's Office


A11 Nos. 6 through 15 in top pay.





More top earners on Albany's payroll


Name Job Pay


Spiro Socaris fire captain (R) $136,164


Paul E. Kirwan police lieutenant $122,080


James J. Olsen police officer $121,066


Philip F. Calderone deputy mayor $119,850


William H. Groat fire lieutenant $116,452


Joseph P. Kosakowski III fire lieutenant $116,436


John E. Coleman police officer $116,212


Kenneth F. Sesock police sergeant $115,613


James M. Wood police officer $115,267


Christopher R. Cornell police officer $115,126


Source: City Treasurer's Office





PULLOUT:


"There's been a concerted effort to really rein in overtime costs."


Bob Van Amburgh


spokesman for the mayor