020902/Lansing; Frank Zuccarelli greets a guest at the annual Thorton townships Valentinbe dance held Saturday at the Serbian hall in Lansing. mc020902 zucca/photocx
Updated: December 8, 2011 8:08AM
Frank Zuccarelli’s job carries a six-figure salary and an array of benefits, including health care, an annual expense account of nearly $25,000, a 2011 GMC Yukon Denali, a credit card and a parking spot.
Such perks aren’t unheard of in the private sector, but Zuccarelli isn’t a corporate executive. He’s an elected official, the supervisor of Thornton Township since 1993 — meaning taxpayers are paying for his salary and other benefits.
At a time when numerous Chicago-area residents are out of work and struggling to stay afloat financially, Zuccarelli’s compensation may seem generous.
He earns two paychecks from taxpayers — aside from his full-time job at Thornton Township, he holds a part-time position with Cook County government. He stands to collect two public-sector pensions down the road. Several family members also have joined the township payroll under his watch, including a sister, an aunt and a cousin, Zuccarelli confirmed to the Better Government Association.
With a $100,000 annual salary, he is the highest-paid township supervisor in Cook County. The next highest paid in the county is Stickney Township’s Louis Viverito, who has an annual salary around $76,000. Other supervisors earn far less: Jill Brickman, of Northfield Township, is paid $30,462.
Supervisors are effectively the mayors of townships, overseeing taxpayer-funded agencies that maintain roads in unincorporated areas and offer social services such as food assistance, property tax advice and job training.
Zuccarelli, 60, says he earns his paycheck.
Not only is Thornton the county’s largest township, covering part or all of 17 south suburbs such as Dolton, Calumet City and South Holland, it provides key social services, including food assistance and job training, to an area ravaged by the recession, he said.
“I do a good job and I’m busy all the time,” he said. “The people who live in this township are getting a good bang for their buck.”
His total compensation — excluding health care — will top $140,000 in 2011, according to interviews and township records obtained under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.
And his supervisor salary will jump to $128,520 if he’s re-elected to a sixth term in 2013. That’s thanks to a resolution passed earlier this year by the township board. He ran unopposed in 2009, and says he plans to run again in 2013.
The township pays for the monthly lease on Zuccarelli’s Denali, as well as his cell phone bill, business-related travel and $24,600 in other expenses that don’t have to be documented.
Meanwhile, Zuccarelli is paid $38,530 a year to sit on the Cook County Employee Appeals Board, an obscure panel that handles appeals from non-union county employees who are facing demotion, discharge or suspension. He was appointed to the board by then-Cook County Board President Todd Stroger.
If Zuccarelli continues at the county post until his term expires in 2016, he will be vested in the Cook County Pension Fund.
He already is vested in the township’s pension program, through the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.
It’s unclear whether Zuccarelli’s relatives on the township payroll will also receive IMRF pensions.
His sister Candace Paun is a deputy clerk in the township assessor’s office, earning $44,972, while his aunt Mary Goley makes $19,547 and his cousin Paula Laven is paid $38,646 for work in the township’s senior services division.
Zuccarelli holds two other non-paying government and political positions: Democratic committeeman in Thornton Township, and chairman of the South Suburban College board. From 2004 to 2009, he worked in the Cook County recorder of deed’s office.
In recent years, the BGA and other good-government advocates have raised questions about the need for township governments.