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Extras give firefighters big pay boost, cost city $84 million a year

CFD Lt. Leonard Sposahis brother former firefighter Ald. Nicholas Sposafirehouse 2323 n Natchez. Thursday June 21 2012 | Brian Jackson~Chicago

CFD Lt. Leonard Sposato and his brother, former firefighter, Ald. Nicholas Sposato, at the firehouse at 2323 n Natchez. Thursday, June 21, 2012 | Brian Jackson~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: July 23, 2012 8:04AM



The city of Chicago is paying fire department employees more than $80 million a year for perks that boosted their salaries by an average of more than $15,000 apiece last year, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis finds.

The salary-boosting extras aren’t reflected in the online database of city workers’ pay that Mayor Rahm Emanuel created in what he described as an effort to provide greater transparency for taxpayers about how City Hall operates.

According to the Emanuel administration’s “data portal,” fire department employees made an average of about $87,000 last year. But when you take into account the extras, that boosted the average salary for the department to about $104,000 a year, according to a Sun-Times analysis of city budget data.

Most of the 5,000 members of the department are paid far more than their posted salaries thanks to a long list of provisions negotiated by their union.

That wide, hidden gap between firefighters’ reported salaries and their actual take-home pay is heightening tensions as the firefighters’ union tries to negotiate a new contract with City Hall.

The Sun-Times reported earlier this month that, with the current five-year contract set to expire at the end of June, the Emanuel administration is targeting the perks. Union leaders vowed to fight to hold onto the gains they won under former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

The lucrative extras often are jokingly referred to inside Chicago firehouses and at City Hall as “junk pays” or “funny money.”

The Chicago Fire Department’s personnel costs totaled nearly $511 million last year, up from $480.2 million in 2010, according to the analysis of all payments the city made to department employees. About $430 million of the 2011 tab was for the regular salaries the Emanuel administration posts online. The rest went toward extras including double-time pay for holidays including Flag Day and “specialty pay” to those who have undergone additional training.

One of the biggest and fastest-growing categories of the additional pay was the 5 percent bonus given to firefighters who are certified divers. The same bonus goes to “Tech A” workers, who have been trained in handling hazardous materials.

Those pay-boosters weren’t part of the previous firefighters’ contract, which expired in 2007. After they were added, firefighters rushed to get them.

By the beginning of this year, nearly 4,000 employees — 80 percent of the department’s personnel — had undergone hazardous-materials training and were getting the 5 percent pay boost — twice as many as had the training in 2008.

The number of certified divers in the department also mushroomed under the current contract — to 367, up from 142 five years ago.

As a result, the cost for speciality pay rocketed from $6.4 million in 2008 to more than $18.3 million last year, city documents show.

Counting just regular pay, the salaries of the city’s rank-and-file firefighters averaged about $80,000 last year. But other payments boosted their average total compensation to almost $90,000, the Sun-Times analysis found.

Many high-ranking fire department employees also have boosted their salaries. For instance, Dan Fabrizio, a battalion chief who also is political director of the firefighters’ union, made $129,349 in regular pay. But Fabrizio’s actual wages came to more than $154,000, ranking him among the 100 best-paid Chicago fire officials last year.

The only extra that was more costly than specialty pay was “holiday premium” pay: Any fire department employee who works on any of 13 holidays — including Flag Day, June 14 — gets double their regular rate. Holiday premium pay cost the city more than $19.2 million in 2011.

An additional $15 million was paid to fire employees last year for “duty availability” pay — which everybody gets just for being in the department. This benefit sends every firefighter an extra $805 check every three months.

The Emanuel administration is proposing to do away with duty availability pay and to limit specialty pay to “those working in that capacity on a given shift,” according to a letter that Chicago Firefighters Local 2 President Tom Ryan sent his members on May 25. Ryan promised to “continue to vigorously fight these insulting, ridiculous proposals.”

Mayoral aides and fire union leaders declined to comment on the ongoing contract talks.

“The city and Chicago Fire Department remain committed to retaining the highest level of protection for our residents at a cost that is affordable for taxpayers,” said Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said in a statement Thursday.

Emanuel has said that firefighters aren’t “immune from the change and reform” resulting from the city’s financial troubles. The fire department has remained largely untouched by the budget cuts even as the number of police officers and other city workers has fallen under Emanuel and Daley.

Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, wants the city to review the costs and benefits of duty-availability pay and other benefits for fire employees.

“With the city’s financial challenges, it can no longer afford to pay salaried officials additional compensation just for being ready to work,” Msall says. “Additional unjustified salary enhancements come at the expense of the city’s ability to meet its police and fire pension requirements.”

Ald. Nick Sposato (36th), a former firefighter who left the department when he was elected alderman last year, sees things differently. Chicago has one of the nation’s best fire departments, he says, because it pays well.

Last year, Sposato’s brother, fire Lt. Lenny Sposato, made $115,490.31. “I’m not even making that as an alderman,” jokes Nick Sposato, who makes about $110,000.

The alderman says his brother deserves to make more than aldermen make. When he was a firefighter, Nick Sposato got specialty pay after going through what he says was a two-week hazardous materials course in 2007, training he says came in handy when he was called to approach smoking steel drums in which he couldn’t know what was burning.

The alderman chides his brother, who works at a firehouse on the Northwest Side, for not taking advantage of specialty pay — though Lenny Sposato still made more than $13,000 above his regular pay last year for working holidays and for duty availability, continuing education and uniform maintenance, city records show.

“Sure, some guys skate at easy houses in easy neighborhoods, but you have no idea what it’s like to wake up at 2 or 3 a.m., jump up and race to a burning house with people hanging out of the windows,” the alderman says. “There has to be some incentive for people who are risking their lives.”

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Total pay rank Name Job description Base salary Extras Total pay
1 Hoff, Robert Fire Commissioner $198,459.00 ($8,204.66) $190,254.34
2 Durkin, John Ambulance Commander $112,872.00 $71,725.93 $184,597.93
3 Wojtecki, Kenneth Deputy District Chief $145,343.00 $34,293.19 $179,636.19
4 Alvarez, Robin Ambulance Commander $108,883.50 $70,580.67 $179,464.17
5 Chikerotis, Steve Deputy District Chief $145,343.00 $32,339.01 $177,682.01
6 Stewart Iii, Charles First Deputy Fire Commissioner $184,350.00 ($8,236.08) $176,113.92
7 Mc Kee, Robert Deputy District Chief $145,343.00 $29,427.07 $174,770.07
8 Mungovan, James Deputy District Chief $145,343.00 $29,142.40 $174,485.40
9 Shehan, John Deputy District Chief $145,343.00 $29,142.40 $174,485.40
10 Powell, Curtis Deputy District Chief $145,343.00 $27,188.24 $172,531.24
11 Roszkowski, Paul Ambulance Commander $110,936.50 $61,015.83 $171,952.33
12 Howard, Larry Deputy District Chief $145,343.00 $25,945.74 $171,288.74
13 Alexander, James Ambulance Commander $106,290.00 $64,449.60 $170,739.60
14 Elmore, Clinton Ambulance Commander $112,872.00 $57,186.13 $170,058.13
15 Brennan, Patrick Deputy District Chief $145,343.00 $24,133.94 $169,476.94
16 Callahan, Michael Deputy Fire Commissioner $174,975.00 ($7,055.85) $167,919.15
17 Falls, Richard Ambulance Commander $112,872.00 $54,460.68 $167,332.68
18 Vasquez, Anthony Deputy Fire Commissioner $174,975.00 ($7,740.68) $167,234.32
19 Petersen, Jack Deputy District Chief $133,056.50 $32,939.37 $165,995.87
20 Fox, Michael Asst Deputy Fire Commissioner $172,803.00 ($6,950.12) $165,852.88
21 Mc Nicholas, John Asst Deputy Fire Commissioner $172,803.00 ($7,007.08) $165,795.92
22 Flaherty, Patrick Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $33,787.32 $163,136.32
23 Edgeworth, Richard Deputy Commissioner $172,803.00 ($9,689.12) $163,113.88
24 Sweeney, Thomas Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $33,112.12 $162,461.12
25 Von Bergen, Thomas Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $32,757.35 $162,106.35
26 Lyons, Christophe Battalion Chief - EMT $126,084.75 $35,956.33 $162,041.08
27 Little, Stephen Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $32,390.34 $161,739.34
28 Santucci, Joseph Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $32,283.70 $161,632.70
29 Knapp, Jerry Deputy District Chief $145,343.00 $16,233.23 $161,576.23
30 Leahy, Thomas Captain - EMT $118,345.00 $42,959.41 $161,304.41
31 Sanchez, Jesse Deputy District Chief $145,343.00 $15,928.84 $161,271.84
32 Gubricky, Michael Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $31,619.97 $160,968.97
33 Finneke, Gary Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $31,597.33 $160,946.33
34 Crooker, Mitchell Battalion Chief-Paramedic $132,537.00 $28,399.26 $160,936.26
35 Doggett, David Chief Helicopter Pilot/EMT $125,610.00 $34,890.79 $160,500.79
36 Lopez, Roberto Ambulance Commander $112,872.00 $47,511.67 $160,383.67
37 Mc Millin, Stephen Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $30,950.90 $160,299.90
38 Cooper, Richard Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $30,795.75 $160,144.75
39 Barrett, Michael Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $30,711.40 $160,060.40
40 Annis, Curt Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $30,633.39 $159,982.39
41 Collins, John Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $30,573.49 $159,922.49
42 Kane, Margaret Battalion Chief-Paramedic $128,696.00 $31,044.38 $159,740.38
43 Bleicher, Lewis Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $30,067.42 $159,416.42
44 Mc Andrew, Guy Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $30,035.05 $159,384.05
45 Jones, Rosalind Battalion Chief - EMT $125,610.00 $33,741.33 $159,351.33
46 Bresnahan, Raymond Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $29,841.68 $159,190.68
47 Arnswald, Thomas Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $29,741.17 $159,090.17
48 Dory, Richard Battalion Chief-Paramedic $130,630.86 $28,261.64 $158,892.50
49 Gloude, Joseph Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $29,517.43 $158,866.43
50 Benson, Mark Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $29,323.46 $158,672.46
51 Kelly, James Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $29,145.45 $158,494.45
52 Basile, Lee Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $29,130.44 $158,479.44
53 O Driscoll, Sean Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $29,077.10 $158,426.10
54 Gibbons, Timothy Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $28,963.41 $158,312.41
55 Oliver, Michael Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $28,703.57 $158,052.57
56 Carroll, Joseph Battalion Chief - EMT $118,398.50 $39,625.67 $158,024.17
57 Timothy, Michael Battalion Chief $123,371.00 $34,543.07 $157,914.07
58 Sullivan, Michael Battalion Chief - EMT $125,610.00 $32,272.68 $157,882.68
59 Cunningham, Daniel Battalion Chief - EMT $127,192.50 $30,632.16 $157,824.66
60 Strocchia, John Fire Engineer $90,957.00 $66,705.45 $157,662.45
61 Ford Ii, Richard Deputy Fire Commissioner $157,622.00 ($4.32) $157,617.68
62 Conroy, Michael Battalion Chief-Paramedic $130,321.00 $27,222.68 $157,543.68
63 Townsend, Mark Battalion Chief - EMT $125,610.00 $31,901.33 $157,511.33
64 Mc Shane, Scott Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $28,113.36 $157,462.36
65 Del Dotto, Larry Ambulance Commander $112,872.00 $44,577.76 $157,449.76
66 Mc Cann, James Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $28,029.47 $157,378.47
67 Hanson, Steve Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $27,285.50 $156,634.50
68 Biondo, Peter Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $27,285.50 $156,634.50
69 Lynch, John Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $27,075.41 $156,424.41
70 Flynn, Sean Commander $114,856.75 $41,478.59 $156,335.34
71 Leon, Gabriel Ambulance Commander $112,872.00 $43,029.11 $155,901.11
72 Burke, Sean Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $26,407.32 $155,756.32
73 Kurcab, Gregory Battalion Chief - EMT $127,192.50 $28,492.52 $155,685.02
74 Koffski, Richard Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $26,331.89 $155,680.89
75 Stauffer, Paul Battalion Chief - EMT $125,610.00 $30,060.11 $155,670.11
76 Niego, Charles Battalion Chief - EMT $125,610.00 $30,028.52 $155,638.52
77 Doherty, Edward Battalion Chief - EMT $125,610.00 $30,027.84 $155,637.84
78 Gniot, Thomas Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $26,137.91 $155,486.91
79 Gurrola, George Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $25,858.92 $155,207.92
80 Stuecklen, Jeff Battalion Chief - EMT $125,610.00 $29,448.37 $155,058.37
81 Paramore, John Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $25,673.69 $155,022.69
82 Milton, Thomas Battalion Chief - EMT $127,192.50 $27,808.19 $155,000.69
83 Jablonowski, James Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $25,603.57 $154,952.57
84 O Donnell, James Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $25,598.80 $154,947.80
85 Witt, Keith Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $25,596.57 $154,945.57
86 Timothy, Lori Ambulance Commander $103,119.00 $51,791.42 $154,910.42
87 Hunter, Derrick Battalion Chief $123,371.00 $31,509.86 $154,880.86
88 Leonard, John Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $25,518.55 $154,867.55
89 Ryan, Kevin Battalion Chief - EMT $126,084.75 $28,772.78 $154,857.53
90 Cleary, Patrick Battalion Chief - EMT $125,610.00 $29,134.01 $154,744.01
91 Dietz, David Battalion Chief - EMT $126,084.75 $28,658.17 $154,742.92
92 Rinaldi, Julie Ambulance Commander $109,519.00 $45,210.79 $154,729.79
93 O Donnell, James Battalion Chief $123,371.00 $31,348.25 $154,719.25
94 Ryan, Edward Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $25,360.86 $154,709.86
95 Altman, Michael Battalion Chief $119,804.00 $34,771.44 $154,575.44
96 Lobianco, Michael Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $25,221.98 $154,570.98
97 Konop, Randall Battalion Chief - EMT $118,398.50 $36,136.47 $154,534.97
98 Strong, Eric Battalion Chief-Paramedic $121,325.00 $33,145.97 $154,470.97
99 Fabrizio, Dan Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $24,843.94 $154,192.94
100 Doyle, Kevin Battalion Chief - EMT $129,349.00 $24,791.54 $154,140.54
Source: City of Chicago
Note: Some management-level personnel had money deducted from base pay because of unpaid furlough days. Deductions are shown in parentheses.


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