How much does an errand boy cost the Mayor (and you)?

by David Esrati on October 16, 2009

in Dayton Government, Open Meeting laws, Stories you don't see in the Dayton Daily News

The Mayor, who makes around $40k a year for her part-time position, has an “Executive assistant to the City Commission” whom she sends out to get her mail at the vacant building.

Kery Gray got two promotions this year. One on Jan. 5, 2009, and another on Jan. 26, now with a salary of $89,294.40. He makes double what the Mayor makes and she has him running errands for her.

They pay the Secretary to the executive assistant, Erin Jefferies, $40,102.40 and there is at least one more legislative aide, Bobbi Dillon, making $41,870.

I understand that this country has CEO’s making more than the President, and that the Governor makes about the same as what we pay the city manager, but, at least all these people have full-time positions.

If the Mayor would do her job properly, as a member of a Board of Directors, instead of trying to be the City Manager, we would have more money to pay for enforcing laws (the number one priority established by the Priority Boards last year- a test question that none of the incumbents knew the answer to last night).

Apparently while heading into a $17 million hole, a whole bunch of middle management, salaried employees got “step” increases in their paychecks while the city was crying poor to the unions.

Is this an example of the “tight financial” controls that “the team” touts from its secret monthly meeting? They disguised the raises as “step increases” to hide the facts from the people.

But then again, we’d never have known about the overpaid errand boy, except for a porcelain pig in a blanket.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer Alexander October 16, 2009 at 3:40 pm

I’m about ready to loose my lunch after reading this post, what the hell is wrong with all of you in Dayton that she’s probably going to get re-elected ? 

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Kelly October 16, 2009 at 7:40 pm

The union employees are still getting their step increases, too. The “pay freeze” for the unions and middle-management didn’t stop the step increases. Why that is, I don’t know, but it’s the way it went down.

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David Esrati October 16, 2009 at 7:48 pm

@Kelly- still trying to figure out why an executive assistant is paid more than twice what the Mayor makes. Also want to know why we’re arguing semantics of “Step increases” vs “raises” while talking about layoffs and cuts in service. Thanks for your insight.

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Drexel Dave Sparks October 16, 2009 at 7:55 pm

Step increases are seniority based pay increases, i.e. you get paid a higher basic rate every year.
Cost of living increases are not the same thing as a step increase. Cost of living increases are given across the board, and negotiated in contracts, as are the step levels of seniority.

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Drexel Dave Sparks October 16, 2009 at 7:56 pm

It’s not a question of semantics. They really are two completely different things.

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David Esrati October 16, 2009 at 8:22 pm

I don’t believe in seniority based pay increases- lets pay for performance instead. And, when times are tight- and the choice is between having co-workers or getting paid more just for continuing to hold a job, I’d say the co-workers come first.

No one performs well when the risk of losing ones job is hanging over them- not getting a step increase isn’t something that one loses sleep over.

And, let’s get real- $90K for an executive assistant to the commission in addition to the clerk is a bit much. Especially to run errands for the Mayor.

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Drexel Dave Sparks October 16, 2009 at 8:42 pm

The people I work with need every penny they get, trust me. My paycheck gets smaller every year. If you want to look it up downtown, be my guest. It’s not impressive. Nobody is going to save the city money by cutting the meager salaries of classified civil service employees (who usually make in the range of $10-15 per hour, and have a huge among taken out of their checks).
Now, the executive assistant salary, now that’s just loco.
I believe you should reward people for loyalty and continued service.
The only way you will get rid of any seniority based pay is to do away with the city’s unions, and that’s about as likely to happen as Crackhead Phil becoming city manager.

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Civil Servants Are People, Too October 17, 2009 at 1:23 am

The step increase was essentially canceled out (and then some) because all of those same employees are losing holiday pay for several national holidays in 2009 and 2010.   The government says you have to take Labor Day off, and now their fair city stops paying for it.
 
Trust me, most of them would rather work on Labor Day and save their paychecks for their families.
 
As for the “errand boys” – who do you think is taking all the unpleasant phone calls from every irate citizen,  managing all the tedious paperwork, and working late nights after every public meeting?   Hint – it’s not an elected official.
 
The folks on the front lines earn every cent.   If you want to emphasize that the position of “mayor” is a part time job, then don’t criticize the people who are doing the work in the trenches.
 
If you are very, very lucky, some of them may end up working for you.

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David Esrati October 17, 2009 at 7:46 am

@CSAPT

If we had a proper system for solving problems- like a 311 system, hooked up to a help desk type software- and if people realized it’s the CITY MANAGERS job to solve problems- not the Mayor and Commission- maybe these people would be working smarter. They definitely shouldn’t be going on mail runs to vacant buildings for the Mayor.

If the city was as well managed fiscally as “the team” calaims, maybe we’d have implemented smart technology long ago. I’ve yet to see any kind of customer service focus out of city hall in 22 years. This is the issue that got me started going to City Hall when I first bought my house. Had they had a clue then, I’d never have stepped foot in the political pool.

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Drexel Dave Sparks October 17, 2009 at 9:10 am

My question to David, and all of other candidates is…What are you going to do to see that the paychecks of honest hard working civil servants at the very least do not continue to shrink every year?

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David Esrati October 17, 2009 at 9:26 am

@Drexel

I don’t want to cut the paychecks of the honest hard working civil servants to shrink- I just want the civil servants to be doing things that have measurable performance indicators. I want them to have real responsibility and do things that only government can do.

You might want to read today’s post on a 311 System.

We can’t have the assistant to the assistant of the Mayor making more than the Mayor.

What we need is a Mayor who stops trying to do the City Managers job.

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Drexel Dave Sparks October 17, 2009 at 10:05 am

You didn’t answer the question. Now that we know that you don’t like it when good civil servants checks are cut, what would you do as Commissioner to stop that from happening? We get yearly raises that are axed out by health insurance increases every year. My take home money is less now than it was five years ago, but if you look at my rate of pay, it looks like I now make more.
This is where you can get union members on your side. Show them how you will stop the bleeding from their pockets, because the leadership certainly isn’t doing anything to stop the flow.

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David Esrati October 17, 2009 at 10:14 am

@Drexel

Sorry you don’t feel that I answered the question. I’m pretty sure we can cut a lot of overhead in the city so we won’t have to cut the pay of people that we need. We’re paying a PhD on a contract to run the “youth commission” – while we can’t pay people to actually deliver services like parks and rec used to do.

That’s only one example. I’m pretty sure there are more- and when I have access to organizational charts, pay scales, job descriptions- I’ll give you exact answers.

I’m not worried about “getting union members” on my side- I’m worried about moving the city forward.

Having a 311 system is more efficient than what we have now- and should bring real cost savings into play.

Doubt it will make up for the $17 million shortfall, but it will be a start.

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Drexel Dave Sparks October 17, 2009 at 10:26 am

It’s not that I didn’t “feel” that you didn’t answer the question. You honestly did not offer one concrete proposal to how you as a commissioner will stop the flood of money from employee pockets. That’s all. It’s a common phenomenon, and one that needs to be addressed, because hard working on the street civil servants get sick of the criticism they get for these mythical giant salaries, when in reality, many of us are losing money every year.
If you want to get elected, there’s nothing wrong with having union members on your side. They run the city, and are exponentially influential. McLin understands that basic tenet. Secondly, it’s certainly not in any way in conflict with moving the city forward. In fact, not getting them on your side and believing you are going to move anything forward is like the coach of the Dallas Cowboys thinking he’s going to move the team foward without the players on his side.
And in all reality, you won’t be able to move the city forward without them. They will do the sweat and blood work that will allow you to accomplish what you want as a leader.
Working people are special. Too bad they aren’t treated like it in America. In progressive places they are.

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Drexel Dave Sparks October 17, 2009 at 10:56 am

Also, another thing. You do have access to all of that pay information, etc…it’s all public record.
Union contracts, all the nitty gritty of who’s working how many hours, who’s getting overtime…
Take care.

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David Esrati October 17, 2009 at 11:34 am

@Mr, Sparks,

I know you aren’t stupid. What part of eliminate overhead don’t you understand? If I cut the PhD, I have more more money to pay other city employees.

Truer words have not been said when you say “there’s nothing wrong with having union members on your side. They run the city, and are exponentially influential. McLin understands that basic tenet.”

Exactly- they’ve been running the city- and the Mayor for years. They choose who gets to run, who gets support, who gets elected. That’s 2000 people making decisions for what was close to 200,000 people when I ran the first time- now we’re lucky to have 145,000.

It’s time to stop this BS- and start running the city professionally, the way it’s supposed to be run.

And if you think FOIA requests get you access to everything- without hassle, you are living in an alternative universe.

 

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Drexel Dave Sparks October 17, 2009 at 12:10 pm

I like the way your thinking is going. :-)
It’s why we need people we all can have a back and fourth with without everything being personal political drama, which as far as I’m concerned, y’all can save fo’ ya’ mama.
Why can’t the union members themselves elect team leaders in departments? The team leader would make the same as the other folks, but work in more of a supervisory role, with measurable goals that they have to account for to a central supervisor. More like platoon leaders in that sense. In the public work space I’m employed at, we have had something like 19 different directors of the department in 20 years, and to be honest and certainly no personal disrespect to the man who holds the position now or those before him, the job that we would get done everyday just as well if there was a tiny management structure (one-person), and team leaders. Nothing we do requires one to have a PhD, but we certainly employ them. It’s pretty basic work. Simple: go from point a to point b, keep order and be safe. Yet, we employ a big bureaucracy with lots of programs to make it all seem very complex.
Additionally, it would empower  the people who actually do the work.
I hear you on the FOIA requests. It’s a huge job to keep up on if you decide to, and no bureaucracy in America is user friendly on the topic. The city of Dayton certainly isn’t unique in this way. I would love to see all city records go digital, with archival in databases that would be open to everyone to search from the web so there really isn’t a need for FOIA requests.

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David Esrati October 17, 2009 at 1:14 pm

@Drexel

I’ve said they’ve been having secret meetings- they say they’re not. Yet, when I look at the list of Commission meetings I see agendas and minutes only for the officially scheduled meetings. Where are the minutes from the rest of them?

We can cut a ton of bureaucracy and get lean- and provide higher levels of customer service if we could change- but that’s not how the system works here.

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Jeff October 18, 2009 at 6:55 pm

When the Fire Department agreed to a wage cut, we agreed to “help” the city and not get our contracted 3% pay raise.  We also “agreed” to give back holiday pay, a total of 4 paid days, it could have been more, I don’t remember at the moment.  We also persisted that step “increases” not be affected, not as a hidden way to give raises, once you are at top step, your done, other than contracted raises, but it was not fair to freeze a rookies pay at $9.00/hr and ask him to take a freeze on his expected and contracted raise AND ask him to give up several holidays that were agreed upon in his contract.  $9.00 to run into a burning building, really?  Step raises are etched in stone, they are not hidden from anyone, there isn’t a way to add a step for someone so that they get a raise, at least not in the fire department there isn’t.  I cannot say the same for the city middle managers as I have heard rumor that they indeed DID get an extra “step” so that they actually receive over a 4% raise.    So don’t confuse contracted step increases for the rank and file as a way to hide raises for directors and middle manager, they are hardly the same.

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