The Investigators

Aug 22, 2013 1:00 AM by Paul Birmingham

N4T Investigators: City of Tucson's highest paid employees

TUCSON - In these leaner times, city budgets are stressed to the max. Some, cities, like Detroit, are caving-in financially.

One of the biggest public expenses is city employees. The News 4 Tucson Investigators have been looking at city worker pay, and what the tab adds up to for the taxpayer
Coming in at number three on the list of the top one hundred highest paid city employees - Fire Chief James Critchley, at just over $176,000 per year.

Number two on the list is Tucson Police Chief, Roberto Villaseñor, with little more than $177,000 per year.

Those two City of Tucson employees are not alone among the highest earners who wear a uniform.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators discovered that of the 100 highest paid City of Tucson employees, more than half work in public safety. For, example, at the Tucson Police Department, that includes positions from Assistant Chief, on down to Sergeants and Detectives. While at Tucson Fire, Battalion Chiefs are well represented on the top earners list.

One thing both agencies have in common - the ability to sell-back unused sick pay, and that can run as high as $10,000 even $15,000.


Inside Tucson City Hall, high earners in public safety have the support of Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild.

"It is so important that you have people that have many years of experience who have been in the field, who have been on the street, who have supervisory experience," Rothschild says.
Rothschild adds, it's not just about paying employees what they're worth, but also making sure the city stays competitive, and can retain the most experienced employees.

"We're really talking about people who have generally gotten pretty far in their education, or people who have extreme positions of responsibility for all of us in the city, and we've got to make sure we retain those people," Rothschild says.

Though, Rothschild also tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, the issue of police and fire employees being able to sell- back unused sick pay continues to come up.

"It is something we're going to look at this year at council. It was on the table and essentially because we want to stay competitive and were able to balance the budget, we didn't have to go in that direction," Rothschild says.

Here's a look at all the positions, what they've made and details on their benefits and perks:

Former Tucson Mayor, Tom Volgy, is now a professor of political science at the U of A. He says sick-time sell back has long been controversial.

"It's always been available, and I think it's always been a sore point, and I think it's a really lousy practice. You know, sick days are there, in case you're sick. Sick days are not for you to increase your income," Volgy says.

Overtime pay also plays a role in some of those six-figure salaries, with some Tucson Police Sergeants bringing home upwards of $20,000, $30,000 even $40,000 in OT.

"There are going to be times, particularly with police officers, you know, the shift ends at noon, and you're out chasing down a bad guy, you can't take a person off. So overtime is an inevitability. But, I think it is an issue that we have to continue to look at, continue to monitor, and, do the best we can with it, with knowing the reality that there are going to be overtime for police officers," Rothschild says.

Topping the list of the top paid City of Tucson employees is City Manager Richard Miranda. The annual salary for the former Tucson Police Chief, just over $191,000.

Volgy says, while salaries of the top city earners may seem high to the average Tucsonan, perception is not necessarily reality.

"What makes this really problematic, is that we are such a poor city. And, the private sector is paying fairly low wages here, and as a result, all of it looks out of kilter."

The News 4 Tucson Investigators also sent a formal request to Pima County, to find out who their top paid employees are. So far, the county has yet to provide that information, but the News 4 Tucson Investigators will continue to push for it.

If you have something you would like us to investigate, email the News 4 Tucson Investigators at investigators@kvoa.com

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