City Haul: More than a third of Chicago city workers make $100K-plus

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Thirty-six city workers topped Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s $216,210 salary. Most of them worked for the police department (23 employees) or the fire department (12). | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

More than one of every three Chicago city workers made $100,000 or more last year — including 36 who topped Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s $216,210 salary, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis has found.

The number of city workers making more than Emanuel was up from 26 in a similar review by the Sun-Times in 2015. And the percentage of city employees topping the $100,000 mark is up slightly since then.

Topping the city’s six-figure-pay club was Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans at $400,000.

Also among the highest-paid was Donald Koplitz, a retired police sergeant who cashed in on accumulated comp time for a payout of more than a quarter of a million dollars — three years after he left the Chicago Police Department.

To search city, county and state worker pay, click on this chart . . .

SOURCE: City of Chicago

SOURCE: City of Chicago

The percentage of workers making six figures was far higher for City Hall than it was for Cook County or the state of Illinois, according to the Sun-Times survey, which combines salaries, overtime and other extra pay.

Of the 25,158 people working for Cook County last year, 2,918 made $100,000 or more — 11.6 percent of the total staff. They made a total of $413.5 million — or 26 percent of the county’s $1.5 billion payroll.

Of 65,535 state employees, 8,640 made six figures — 13 percent. Their combined pay of $1.1 billion amounted to about 24 percent of the state’s $4.5 billion payroll.

In all, 13,767 of the city’s 35,274 employees made six figures, for a combined total of more than $1.7 billion that accounted for more than half of the city’s nearly $3.1 billion payroll, the Sun-Times found.

Most of those who outpaced the mayor work for the police department (23 employees) or the fire department (12).

Among them was police Supt. Eddie Johnson, at $237,162.69. Johnson has the city’s second-highest base salary — $235,746.02.

But nine of his subordinates ended up making more than he did, thanks to overtime and other extra pay.

Among the Sun-Times’ other findings:

• The average city worker’s total payout — salary, overtime and other pay — came to $87,090.50.

• The average Chicago Police Department employee made $99,811.59.

• The average pay among Chicago Fire Department employees was $117,286.71.

• Excluding police and fire employees, the city’s average pay was $67,046.82.

• The average pay for Cook County workers was slightly lower — $63,054.39. The average for state employees was slightly higher — $68,883.60.

To search city, county and state worker pay, click on this chart . . .

SOURCE: City of Chicago

SOURCE: City of Chicago

In all, 90 city workers made more than $200,000 last year — just four of them, besides the mayor and Evans, from outside the police and fire departments.

Three of them were in the city’s water department: Joseph G. Morabito, assistant chief operating engineer, paid $213,977.67, including $102,480.39 in overtime; Steve Wilson, assistant chief operating engineer, $200,984.33, $92,045.53 of that from overtime; and Kevin Chavez, an operating engineer, $208,399.08, more than half of that thanks to $108,851.08 in overtime. Their union didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Ramona Perkins. | Facebook

Ramona Perkins. | Facebook

Ramona Perkins, a police communications operator in the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, boosted her $75,407.69 salary with $128,546.18 in overtime. A $500 uniform allowance put her final 2016 payout at $204,453.87. She declined to comment.

City Hall spent nearly $28 million on such uniform allowances for 19,152 employees — more than $1,460 each.

Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans. | Rich Hein / Sun-Times

Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans. | Rich Hein / Sun-Times

Evans saw her $300,000 pay get a 33 percent boost thanks to a $100,000 bonus for meeting goals for “expanding capacity, modernizing operations and improving infrastructure” at O’Hare Airport and Midway Airport. Evans’ agency made unwanted international news earlier this year when her employees violently dragged Dr. David Dao — a ticketed passenger who already had boarded — off a United Airlines flight to make room for airline employees.

“In today’s market, the commissioner could make significantly more in the private sector,” says Lauren Huffman, a spokeswoman for Evans’ aviation department.

A distant second to Evans in the city’s top-paid ranks was an unidentified police sergeant whose $111,428 salary was more than doubled by $133,515.95 for overtime.

On top of that, other types of additional money — retroactive raises, duty-availability pay, uniform allowances, holiday pay and shift differentials — pushed the sergeant’s total compensation to $261,442.13.

Altogether, Chicago taxpayers paid more than $164 million for such pay boosters. Nearly all of that — $158 million — went to police and fire employees, the city’s two largest groups of workers.

The unnamed sergeant wasn’t the only city employee not identified in the pay data provided by the city in response to a public records request. City Hall says it withheld the names of 399 officers, 50 sergeants and 14 detectives because they worked undercover.

The median pay for city employees — meaning half of all of them made more, and half made less — was nearly $93,000, the Sun-Times analysis found.

By comparison, the median income for:

• An entire household in the Chicago metropolitan area in 2015 — the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau — was $63,153.

• An Illinois state government worker last year was $65,893.

• A Cook County government employee in 2016 was $60,836.

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Altogether, 10 percent of the tab for Chicago’s city payroll went to 25,712 employees who together accounted for nearly $309 million in overtime — an average of more than $12,000 apiece. That overtime includes payouts for compensatory time for police employees, who can choose to get overtime pay or accumulate comp time — often cashed in when they retire.

SOURCE: City of Chicago

SOURCE: City of Chicago

About half of the city’s OT-earners — 12,442 in all — worked for the police department. They accounted for nearly $168 million of the overtime pay.

Firefighters were the second-largest group for overtime pay, with 4,692 of them paid more than $71 million for OT.

“The city’s public safety personnel are compensated at a level commensurate with the vital role they serve in our neighborhoods” and on par with pay in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, says Molly Poppe, a spokeswoman for the city’s Office of Budget and Management.

A total of 445 city workers made more in overtime pay than they did from their regular earnings.

In all, 686 employees made $50,000 or more in overtime ­— 31 of them topped $100,000.

The city’s biggest payout for overtime to one worker last year went to Koplitz, the former police sergeant. A 40-year veteran of the department, he retired in 2013 but received $252,482.63 last year for remaining comp time he’d accumulated, officials say.

Four more now-former police employees cashed in between $155,000 and $173,000 apiece in overtime.

There’s no cap on how much comp time police employees can accumulate. The city typically pays out what they are owed over three years when they retire, with three annual payments.

City Hall Inspector General Joseph Ferguson. | Rich Hein / Sun-Times

City Hall Inspector General Joseph Ferguson. | Rich Hein / Sun-Times

That practice drew scrutiny from City Hall Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, who, in a report in May, cited the example of a sergeant having banked nearly $800,000 in comp time. “This particularly expensive element of CPD contracts should be carefully evaluated in the 2017 . . . negotiations,” his report said.

Five of the city’s 44 contracts with labor unions expired on June 30, and City Hall wants them to consider the city’s financial troubles when they negotiate new deals.

“We have gotten to a point that I expect our partners in labor to be partners for the fiscal well-being of the city of Chicago,” Emanuel says via Poppe.

The reigning overtime king who’s still on the job is Officer Timothy A. Walter, one of the city’s most prolific writers of drunk-driving tickets. Walter has been City Hall’s overtime leader in past years, too. But he never before made as much in overtime as he did last year: $146,860.83, on top of his $94,056.75 salary. With other extras, Walter’s total pay was $249,768.73 last year.

According to the police department, his enormous overtime was the result of “extension-of-tour and mandatory appearances for court cases.”

The police department also made big payouts last year for overtime to five officers singled out for disciplinary action in the David Koschman case, in which a nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley wasn’t charged until a decade after Koschman’s death, the Sun-Times has reported.

Sgt. Sam Cirone was paid $153,376.91 last year, including nearly $30,000 for overtime, while on desk duty as he fights a suspension resulting from his role in the David Koschman investigation. | Sun-Times files

Sgt. Sam Cirone was paid $153,376.91 last year, including nearly $30,000 for overtime, while on desk duty as he fights a suspension resulting from his role in the David Koschman investigation. | Sun-Times files

They were paid more than $350,000 in comp time alone. Sgt. Sam Cirone, the last cop still facing discipline in the case, was paid $153,376.91 last year, including nearly $30,000 in overtime — while on desk duty.

The others — who all left the department amid an inspector general’s investigation that could have resulted in their firings — were Constantine “Dean” Andrews, former chief of detectives, paid $166,815.23; former Cmdr. Joseph Salemme, who got more than $89,000 for comp time, plus supervisor’s OT and a vacation payout, for a total of $99,449.78; former Lt. Denis Walsh, $110,968.73, more than half of that for comp time; and former Detective James Gilger made $45,704.61, about a third of that for comp time.

The police department accounted for about 45 percent of the city total payroll, collectively being paid almost $1.4 billion. And they got about 54 percent of the city’s overtime payments — nearly $168 million, up 23 percent over the previous year, some of that in response to increased violence that saw Chicago record 781 homicides in 2016, the first time in nearly 20 years the city had more than 700 killings in a calendar year.

“We have regularly argued that the city needs to hire more police officers,” says Kevin Graham, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents rank-and-file officers. “And it is worth mentioning that officers have often been mandated to work overtime, even when they didn’t want to.”

City Hall requires police officers, firefighters and emergency communications operators to work nights, weekends and holidays.

Chicago Police stand guard outside Wrigley Field while the Chicago Cubs take on the Cleveland Indians during the World Series Friday night. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Police officers stand guard outside Wrigley Field as the Cubs played the Cleveland Indians in last year’s World Series. | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

They also might get called in, say, when the Cubs win their first World Series run in over a century. During the team’s run to the historic title, the city paid a total of $18.8 million in overtime, with $17.2 million of that going to police officers, the Sun-Times has reported.

Fire department employees collectively made about $597 million and accounted for almost a quarter of the city’s overtime — $71.1 million. The firefighters union didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The benefits and overtime given to city employees are largely the result of labor contracts negotiated over a span of decades. The rationale has been that the workers should be compensated for their unusual schedules and, in some cases, the dangers they face. There’s also the element of politicians wanting city unions’ support to win reelection. Overtime isn’t counted toward city workers’ pensions.

Contributing: Dan Mihalopoulos

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