Schenectady police officer’s pay tops in city history

Saturday, January 31, 2009
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— Schenectady Police Officer Dwayne Johnson’s long hours on the job have placed him in the city’s record books.

With his overtime and other earnings, Johnson grossed $168,921 in 2008, which is nearly triple his base pay of $57,478. The patrolman, who is known for working multiple 16-hour shifts each week, replaced Sgt. Arthur Zampella as the city’s top-earning employee and is now considered the highest-earning police officer in city history.

“To make that much money, you’re pretty much living here,” Police Chief Mark Chaires said of the officer’s overtime earnings.

Johnson’s earnings place him above the previous record set by Police Chief Greg Kaczmarek in 2002. With all of his added earnings included, the former chief grossed $158,981 during his last year in office.

But Johnson isn’t the only cop listed among the city’s top-grossing employees in 2008. Excluding Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett, 18 of the 20 top-grossing employees in Schenectady are members of the police force, according to a list released by the city on Friday.

In total, 63 city employees grossed more than $100,000 last year, with all but 11 of these workers falling under the Police Department’s budget. Only Bennett, Chaires and Fire Chief Robert Farstad have base salaries that exceed $100,000.

Overtime was largely to blame for the inflated police earnings. Chaires said the department was understaffed throughout much of 2008, meaning the overtime registered by the top earners was necessary and would have inevitably gone to someone else on the force anyway.

The department was short five officers all last year while officials from the state Attorney General’s Office investigated a claim the officers used excessive force during a drunken driving arrest. All five officers were cleared of all wrongdoing last year but remain off duty pending an internal investigation.

In addition, two other officers were suspended for most of 2008, and two were overseas with the National Guard. Four others were on long-term sick leave and 15 new officers hadn’t completed their training.

As a result, the department was short 27 officers from the 166 officers that it needs to function optimally. Chairs said the shortage of staffing was coupled with a particularly busy year in the city.

“We’re a busy city,” he said. “It’s very important that we have all hands on deck.”

Chaires said the outlook for this year might not be much better. He said the department could see as many as 10 retirements this year, meaning overtime could spike again.

Officers’ salaries were also augmented by retroactive pay raises in accordance with an arbitrator’s September ruling. Officers received a 4 percent raise, retroactive to 2006 and 2007.

In the case of Johnson, the retroactive pay raises tacked an additional $14,626 onto his normal salary.

“In addition to all of these absences and all of these circumstances that have created the need for overtime shifts to keep our city safe, there is still the inherent fundamental flaws in the labor contract,” Mayor Brian Stratton said.

Both Chaires and Stratton said there is a need to reduce the levels of police overtime. Chaires said he’s expecting to issue a policy that will reduce discretionary overtime in the department.

“That’s where we think we can exercise more control,” he said.

They also expressed concern over the effect working long hours of overtime might have on officers. Chaires said Johnson would sometimes work three or four 16-hour shifts in a week.

“I don’t think it’s healthy physically,” he said.

Stratton suggested capping overtime for officers once it reaches 50 percent of their regular salary. But he said such a proposal would never be accepted by Schenectady’s Police Benevolent Association.

“Obviously, public safety is our top priority, but we also have a responsibility to make sure we manage our dollars wisely,” he said.

Lt. Robert Hamilton, the police union’s president, could not be reached for comment on Friday. Hamilton ranked 15th on the list with gross earnings of $129,908, or nearly twice his annual salary.

Despite the high levels of overtime, the Police Department appears to be within its budget for the fourth consecutive year. Stratton said some of the overtime costs were covered through funding from the state’s Operation IMPACT and STOP-DWI grants.

Outside of the Police Department, the city’s top-earning employee was Patrick Tremante, a sewer maintenance supervisor with the Department of Public Works. Stratton said Tremante — a longtime city worker whose $141,296 gross pay is ranked eighth overall — has a lot of added earnings built into his job detail.

“We’re going to try and restructure that [when Tremante retires], just as we did with the police chief’s job,” he said.

Chief Robert Farstad was the Schenectady Fire Department’s top-grossing employee in 2008 but was ranked 30th among all city workers. He earned a base pay of $104,000 but grossed $112,802.

Stratton didn’t even make the top 50. The $97,009 he earned last year ranked 74th among all city employees.

Top 10 salaries in 2008

Name, Job title, Base Salary, Gross

* Dwayne Johnson, Police officer,  $57,478, $168,921.98

* Brian Kilcullen, Asst. police chief,  $94,500, $159,957.91

* Thomas Delaney, Police investigator,  $58,341, $153,975.17

* Thomas Adach, Police investigator,  $58,341, $148,987.05

* Robert Kutil,  Police investigator,  $58,341, $147,461.50

* Keith Schaffer, Police investigator,  $58,341, $142,713.97

* Matt Hoy,  Police sergeant,  $63,225, $142,377.51

* Patrick Tremante, Sewer maintenance supervisor, $66,308, $141,296.02

* Luciano Savoia, Police sergeant,  $63,225, $135,395.37

* John Ericson,  Police investigator,  $58,341, $134,644.37


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January 31, 2009
7:42 a.m.
JJR031 says...

Well, we now know where all the tax money in Schenectady goes. Once again, the SPD doesn't fail to dissapoint.

January 31, 2009
8 a.m.
schdy says...

("Lt. Robert Hamilton, the police union’s president, could not be reached for comment on Friday. Hamilton ranked 15th on the list with gross earnings of $129,908, or nearly twice his annual salary.")

How can R Hamilton do overtime when he only works one week a year! Let me qualify that in 2007 he worked one week. No reason to believe it is much different in 2008 he has a real thing going.

Maybe you (Daily Gazette) could do a story to tell us how many days this man worked in 2008. I know you wrote about it for 2007 now you really have my interest up on how he did in 2008?

January 31, 2009
9:32 a.m.
wmarincic says...

schdy, you dont think running the union is working? I have seen Bobby Hamilton many times in a patrol car working the streets. The Sch'dy Police can't win no matter what they do, if they are aggressivly arresting people they are accused of violating peoples rights, if they are not arresting people they are accused of doing nothing. How about leaving them alone to do the very dangerous job that they do day in and day out. YOU CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS!!!!!!!

January 31, 2009
10:29 a.m.
KeepingItReal says...

We need some good investigative reporting to bring all the facts to city taxpayers. When we finally all realize just how outrageous this is, maybe we will be inspired as a group to address this in its proper forum once an for all.

January 31, 2009
12:17 p.m.
dickc06 says...

The poor taxpayers of Schenectady are taking a hit, again, from the good old SPD, and county and city administrations that never stop taking. Wasn't Bennett brought in to "oversee" the PD and reduce OT? If so, he's failed to deliver, so what's new?

I was a theft victim over a year ago, and it took me 6 months to find out the SPD was "too busy" to waste time investigating my complaint even though 2 people provided the "perps" name. He wasn't even interviewed. So what are all the investigators investigating? This administration and PD are both pathetic.

The people of Schenectady County should DEMAND consolidation of police, fire and education on a county level and start from scratch. We'd get rid of a lot of dead wood, but that would eliminate too many political jobs, too, so no local legislator would ever propose it. Hell, they want their retirement and health benefits paid for by the taxpayers for doing their "jobs" too.

What a place to live!

January 31, 2009
2:57 p.m.
wmarincic says...

dickc06, The Police have no justification to question anyone just because someone gave them a name otherwise they risk being sued. Do you have any idea how many phone calls a day the Police get accusing someone of a crime by someone with a grudge? There are only so many Investigators and a whole lot of crime, in the last 3 weeks alone there have been reports of shots fired every single day. I have been calling for a $100. per year safety fee per taxpaying property that will allow for at least an additional 20 Police Officers. We just dont have the cops for the ammount of crime and it is very difficult when the administration tells you that you can't be proactive, and what motivation do these officers have to be proactive, if they are they get accused of violating the law by criminals and they lose their job and pension not to mention they have their good name dragged through the press and are ALWAYS guilty until proven innocent. How about seeing things from their side for a change, I bet you would not work under the conditions that these officers do.

January 31, 2009
3:36 p.m.
myshortpencil says...

"Retired" commends the police dept. for coming in under budget, but if the budget is large enough to pay officers nearly $200,000 with benefits, isn't the budget out of whack, too?

Here's what needs to be done. Promote every police officer to the lowest managerial rank that doesn't pay overtime. Then tell them they are working 14 hours a day, or whatever it takes to drive their hourly rate down to patrolman. Then layoff the officers who are no longer needed due to the average increase in hours worked by those remaining. Any notion that nothing can be done and that these are the only prices at which public safety can be purchased is absurd. No city employee should earn more than $100,000 a year under any circumstances, from administrators to pages.

January 31, 2009
3:54 p.m.
jack1680 says...

The only explanation for a schenectady policeman to make $168,00o in one year means he must have lived there.

Everyone here thinks it is so easy to fix and they have there own ways to fix it. Funny... RETIRED stated they came in under budget. I bet there r plenty of SPD officers who are not making that type of money. These are the guys who live there with the exception of the union president. It is the same in every city. Ask Albany!

February 1, 2009
12:36 a.m.
chrissi72 says...

I have personally seen Officer Johnson in action as a Police Officer, both on and off duty. He is the epitome of what a Police Officer should be. He is a kind and fair man; a genuine asset to the SPD. I will sleep well tonight knowing he is patroling our city. He has earned EVERY penny of my tax payers dollars!

February 1, 2009
8:19 a.m.
NoSenseAtAll says...

Fire Bennett and save $$$$.....Apparently he is not doing his job....Taxpayers should buy a police scanner and listen just how busy they are.....It's a lousy job to begin with and they should get paid for not being with their families...But for not solving crimes or not interviewing suspects will happen in any department...THAT is what Bennett is for...

February 1, 2009
10:06 a.m.
wmarincic says...

I think the Commissioner wants to do a good job and bring the public confidence back to the SPD but you can't do it by beating down the troops and making them afraid to do the job without fear of departmental charges. I will say it again, urban Policing in Sch'dy is not the same as patrolling the thruway. We all saw with the murder last week that not even the family members of the victim were willing to help the Police but I bet if one of the cops said something that was perceived as inappropriate there would be dozens of witness's to that.

February 1, 2009
4:40 p.m.

unlimted paid sick time = massive overtime. what do you people expect!

February 3, 2009
7:20 a.m.

"it was once reported"? where? when?

unlimted sick time is slowly being weeded out? where does that data come from?

February 13, 2009
12:12 p.m.
lyndzey79 says...

First of all, these are the men and woman that are trying their best to serve and protect you and your families. How much is your childs life or your mothers life worth to you?? Would you say more than $168,921.98 or less? I know I would pay any price to keep my family safe. Not one of you that had negative comments about how much our police officers get paid have ANY idea what these men and woman have to go through on a daily basis. Their lives and their families lives are put at risk each and everytime they leave their homes. Would any of you like to get up off your comfy office chairs and live in their shoes for 1 hour let alone 64 hours a week??? I think not!!! Leave this man ALONE and stop being jealous because it doesnt look cute on any of you. He is worth and deserves twice as much as he made.

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