The highest-earning municipal employee in St. Thomas in 2010 was St. Thomas police Chief Bill Lynch, who earned $157,133, up from $135,424 the previous year.
In addition the number of members of the St. Thomas Police Service who earned in access of $100,000 in 2010 more than doubled to 13, from six in 2009.
City Scope talked to Lynch on Friday, the same day the figures were published in the Times-Journal, to ascertain what is behind the substantial increase in his salary and the swelling of the ranks in the so-called sunshine club with police officers.
“Probably the single biggest reason – last year’s salaries have a lot of retroactivity in them from 2009,” Lynch explained.
” A lot of that is what puts them over. Retroactive pay from 2009 because the contract did not get settled until around August of 2010.”
As a result, continued Lynch, senior officers benefitted from a considerable bump in experiential pay.
In this corner, we like to use the more appropriate term – retention pay, because any other term sugar coats the true intent of this contract component.
“The staff sergeants (there are eight on the list), they are all senior officers, so they get the hight end of the experiential pay,” noted Lynch.
“And, one of the officers (Marc Vaughan) worked at the Olympics in 2010. He worked 16 hours/day (his salary was paid by the federal government).”
Lynch went on to advise, “We have two senior sergeants. Chris Perrin is in criminal investigation and what put him over was the overtime from our homicide investigations. The other sergeant, Sue Newton, hers was overtime as well.”
As for the senior officers, they historically have been at the low end in comparison to other departments,” Lynch explained.
“It wasn’t until last year the board (police services board) addressed it. Senior offices don’t put in overtime. What they used to get was a week in lieu of. I have two inspectors who usually, by the end of January, will have covered a week’s holidays.
“We’ll have a homicide and all of our senior officers are in here and they won’t get one nickel for it. That was addressed last year by giving them an additional week of holidays in lieu of. So St. Thomas gets a great deal. My two inspectors are on call 24/7 and they don’t get a nickel for it.”
Which brings us to Lynch topping the salary table of city employees.
“I can speak to my contract. Since I’ve been the chief of police I’ve been probably the lowest in my group every year. Last year, the board addressed that by giving me an average of my peers from similar sized departments across the province. The two closest comparatives are Stratford and Woodstock.
“I’ll give you an example. The chief in Woodstock, his salary last year was $188,000. The chief of Stratford was $150 something. But his was based on 2009 because he’s been without a contract for two years. So, historically mine has been lower than theirs by quite a bit.”
contract negotiations for senior group: Usually the association contract is done and then the senior officer’s group is dealt with. Our negotiations are with the board. There actually never has been a need for sit-down negotiations because we’ve never asked for more than the association got. Historically whatever the association got, we would get that.
Lynch concluded retroactive pay had probably the biggest impact on 2010 salaries.
He closed out the discussion by suggesting it’s time for the province to re-think the $100,000 level for public sector salary disclosure.
“I’m totally supportive of accountability, Lynch assured. “But I think it’s about time they raised the standard ($100,000). It’s been in place for quite a time and they haven’t raised the $100,000. I was told the other day, $100,000 in today’s dollars compared to when the Sunshine list started is something like around $130,000. If you looked at that, there would be a hell of a lot less public servants that fit.”
I leave that open for reader input. Is $100,000 still an viable benchmark or should the bar be raised and by how much?