Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Cabinet Pay: Out of Whack?

Once upon a time, there was a very orderly salary structure for non-union employees such as the city administrator, department heads and other cabinet members. After unions settled, the non-union salary increases were established by ordinance. The city administrator made more than the three department heads mandated by the city's special charter, and the department heads made more than those under them.

Due to changes over the past decade, the fire chief now makes more than the city administrator and more than his boss, the department head for Public Safety. The structure and increases are available through Open Public Record Act requests, but the last non-union salary ordinance that I recall dates back to 2006 and only affected two cabinet members who were on the verge of retirement.

The corporation counsel was once the top-paid official, but after a search for a chief financial officer foundered, the salary band was increased to a minimum of $96,742 and a maximum of $157,015 for 2014. The new CFO in 2014 received $151,494, the highest salary among 15 non-union members.

The pay for a Public Affairs & Safety director lowered during the last administration because the director was receiving a pension from another jurisdiction, even though that department head's salary range had increased because state legislation mandated a higher salary than that received by a captain. When Chief Edward Santiago chose to return to the title of captain after the title was abolished, his salary increased, because the chief's salary line had not been increased by ordinance.

Can these discrepancies be fixed? Does it matter? The answer might be "yes," if a new administration comes in next year or if Mayor Adrian O. Mapp wins re-election and wants to level the playing field for his cabinet members.

During the past administration, the title of police chief was abolished, replaced by "police director." The department head over the police and fire divisions was Martin Hellwig, who was also named police director, in effect reporting to himself though drawing one salary for two titles.

A chart of salary bands in 2014 included one for "Municipal Engineer," even though the city no longer has an in-house engineer, but has hired outside firms to provide engineering services for many years.

Another novelty in recent years has been payments to a law firm for the services of the corporation counsel, even though the Municipal Code calls for the corporation counsel to be compensated with a "fixed annual salary established by ordinance."

Maybe a transition team in late 2017 will look at these discrepancies and straighten them out. Meanwhile, if you want to "follow the money" in the cabinet, it's a long and winding road.



  1. Bernice, once again you have pointed out that Plainfield can be a golden cow for various high level employees since the present and last two administrations create jobs and hire without the Counsel considering exact compensation and its relationship to other employees.The legal office for example has gotten out of hand.What has been the cost to the city in 2015 and 2016 to date. This does not include funds awarded in settlement of cases.

  2. Another reason our property taxes was increased again this year. Such burdens on the homeowners. Greedy politicians.

  3. Warning:

    Democratic Party at work next 10 miles.

  4. Public Information Officer making $90,000.00. When did the council and the Mayor hire her.

    1. Who is the public info officer?

  5. Look at the public revords The Fire Chief in Plainfield is one of the lowest paid in the state. The Director of Public Safety is underpaid with the responsibility and manpower he oversees. Plainfield should have a paid mayor and not a city administrator!

  6. You have to go back many years to when there were pay scales for each of the unions - Police, Fire, DPW, City Hall Workers and non-union pay scales. The one thing that amazes me to this day is why there are different cost of living increase provided to unions. Aren't cost of living increases the same for everyone?