Medford police top earners
Many were among highest-paid city workers in 2011
While many in the city struggled with unemployment and pay cuts during the lingering economic downturn, budget year 2011 was a plum time to be wearing a badge in Medford, city records show.
Police officers, from captains to patrolmen, topped the list of the highest-paid public employees in fiscal 2011, according to payroll information provided to the Globe through a public records request.
Salaries were boosted even higher during this pay period by an arbitration decision that awarded dozens of officers a lump sum - in some cases more than $15,000 - for back pay deemed owed through the Quinn Bill, a state law that mandates bonuses of up to 25 percent for officers who earn college degrees.
Adding in details, overtime, and other pay, Police Captain Alan F. Doherty grossed $180,097 in fiscal 2011 to become the highest earner in Medford, moving up from second place in 2010, when he took in $151,675.
Captain Barry Clemente was second in fiscal 2011, with a total of $176,499. Both earned $30,807 in Quinn money, which included the lump sum for back pay.
The majority of the police force - 73 out of 95 officers - earned Quinn bonuses in fiscal 2011, with many maxing out for their level of education.
Traditionally, the state has split Quinn costs with cities and towns, but the state stopped contributing its half in fiscal year 2010, said Stephanie M. Burke, director of personnel and budget.
That prompted legal action by the police patrolmen’s union, which won an arbitration award to receive the lost 50 percent, which was paid by the city.
The arbitrator’s decision also mandated that the city pick up the full cost of Quinn pay through June of this year, when the current patrolman’s contract expires.
Though a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling last month relieved municipalities of covering 100 percent of Quinn Bill costs, Medford is among other communities in the state that have not yet indicated they will attempt to cut the education funding.
Burke said the city is in negotiations with the union on a future pay package, but declined to provide details, saying that Quinn pay is only one part of the ongoing contract discussion.
All but three of the police officers who made the top 100 in fiscal 2011 grossed more than $100,000. Just two - Doherty and Clemente - outpaced Chief Leo A. Sacco III, who took in $167,302 before taxes, including $38,971 in Quinn money.
Doherty commands the patrol division, the department’s largest, making him the go-to guy when major crimes or public safety situations arise, Sacco said. Doherty also chose to work many details and extra shifts.
“If it’s something that warrants his immediate attention, he comes in, and if he comes in, he gets paid,’’ Sacco said. “He gets the call.’’
Clemente made $39,111 in detail pay, boosting his overall gross to $176,499.
Sacco said police ranks have thinned in recent years, forcing fewer employees to work more hours to cover the same ground in the city of more than 56,000.
“We’re at our lowest level,’’ Sacco said. “We have 95 officers. In 2001, we had 132. And that accounts for a lot of the detail hours, too, because we have fewer officers competing for the hours every day.’’
The officer who reaped the most from the extra work was Paul F. Giordano, also the department’s highest-paid patrolman, who earned $59,298 in base salary in fiscal 2011. But after $52,165 in detail pay, $24,275 for overtime, and $27,482 in combined education and other pay, he grossed $163,220.
In detail work alone, Giordano appeared to average more than 25 extra hours per week, the most of anyone in the department.
Officers on detail usually earn $40 an hour, according to Sacco, paid by the construction company or other private party requesting the coverage.
Sacco dismissed any notion that the pay his officers receive is exorbitant.
“That would bother me, if people think that any of our officers are overcompensated for what they do,’’ Sacco said. Construction details are closely monitored, he said, to ensure that officers are not sitting in their cruisers, reading the newspaper, or talking on their cellphones instead of monitoring traffic.
“We keep a tight watch over our budget,’’ the chief said. “We know where every dollar goes.’’
The department assigns the extra work based on a rotating 13-week system, Sacco said, in which officers who have signed up for the least number of hours in a quarter get priority for upcoming shifts.
Fire Department superior officers were well represented on the top 100 list, with seven lieutenants, captains, and deputy fire chiefs breaking into the top bracket, as well as Fire Chief Frank Giliberti Jr., at $121,618.
As opposed to entry-level police, Medford firefighters landed lower on the pay scale, with only one breaking into the top 100: John E. Freedman, at $99,577, according to the records.
Some school officials sprinkled the top 100 list, too. Superintendent Roy E. Belson made $158,700, the highest-earning educator. He was followed by 19 other school administrators in the top 100. That group earned from $97,610 (Kirk D. Johnson, principal of the Roberts Elementary School) to $115,038 (Frank L. Howard, director of guidance).
Only one elected official made the list: Mayor Michael J. McGlynn, who was paid $138,681, which included about $12,000 to chair the Medford School Committee, $1,200 for longevity, and $1,680 for travel expenses.
“I earn every penny I make,’’ said McGlynn, who was elected in 1987 and has held the office ever since. “I think that the job justifies the salary.’’
Other notable earners included Peter Kerger, a water department foreman, who more than doubled his $59,662 base salary with $76,900 in overtime and $1,100 for pay categorized as “other.’’ In all, he grossed $137,662 for the year.