Nevada Policy Research Institute
Seven Las Vegas Metropolitan corrections officers received overtime (OT) payouts over $100,000 last year, according to newly released public pay data from TransparentNevada.com.
The data reveals that Metro corrections officer Jason Scott collected a $146,747 OT payout last year — the largest of the more than 125,000 government workers surveyed.
A $146,216 OT payout helped boost Metro corrections officer Duane Jensen’s $83,752 salary to $306,605 in total compensation, which includes benefits and additional pay beyond regular salary.
In fact, 8 of the top 10 highest OT payout statewide went to Metro corrections officers. After Jensen and Scott, the next three highest OT payouts were:
—Corrections officer Tammie Lavender collected $273,513 in total compensation, with $128,098 coming from OT.
—Corrections officer Brenda Rowland collected $265,606 in total compensation, with $121,204 coming from OT.
—Corrections officer Michael Dryden collected $265,984 in total compensation, with $117,643 coming from OT.
Metro wages among highest nationwide
Average pay for Metro’s correctional officers and supervisors both ranked among the highest nationwide, according to NPRI’s transparency director Robert Fellner.
“The average salary earned by corrections officers and supervisors at Nevada’s local governments surpasses what 90 percent of their peers nationwide received,” said Fellner.
The average Metro corrections officer received a regular salary of $77,286 and $153,526 in total compensation, while the average Metro correctional supervisor received a $101,351 base salary and $192,323 in total compensation. A survey of TransparentNevada.com salary data for corrections officers at the cities of Henderson, Las Vegas, Mesquite and North Las Vegas revealed virtually identical numbers to those found at Metro.
By comparison, the average wage for correctional officers and jailers nationwide was just $45,320 in 2015, with supervisors of correctional officers earning $59,720, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While salaries at Nevada’s local governments are near national-high levels, the State is closer to average — a disparity directly attributable to the broken collective bargaining regime found at the local level, according to Fellner.
“Unsurprisingly, mandatory secretive collective bargaining at Nevada’s local governments has driven public pay to astronomical heights, burdening taxpayers and reducing services. Ironically, the State is now going to increase wages in an attempt to catch up with the skyrocketing salaries paid by local governments, leading to a never-ending upwards spiral of higher pay, higher government spending and, consequently, higher taxes.”
A new year means a new $500,000+ Metro cop
In addition to the state’s highest OT payouts, Metro also had the largest payout for unused leave statewide, with former assistant sheriff Kirk Primas collecting $369,445 from unused leave immediately before drawing an $183,000 annual retirement allowance.
This practice also accounts for most of outgoing deputy chief James Owens’ $576,222 total compensation package — the largest of any Metro worker.
The next three highest compensated Metro workers were:
—Retired police captain Robert Duvall: $460,487.
—Retired police captain Brett Primas: $453,168.
—Retired police captain Michael Dalley $443,282.
An inefficient and counterproductive approach to compensation
2016 also saw the departure of Metro’s Criminalistics Bureau executive director Tracy Birch. Birch is widely recognized as one of the department’s top employees, whose departure “will create a substantial void in the department, as her span of knowledge and experience is unrivaled,” according to Metro.
Birch’s departure demonstrates how the current pension system actually incentivizes good employees to leave the system, according to Fellner. The fact that state law caps the accrual of future pension wealth after 30 years, provides little incentive for Birch to continue working, even if she were willing to do so.
“Nevada state law distributes pension wealth in an incredibly uneven fashion, penalizing both those who leave the system too soon, while also forcing out the most valuable and experienced employees after just 30 years,” explained Fellner. “A sane compensation approach would encourage the most valuable and experienced employees to continue working, if they so desired, instead of forcing them out of the workforce a full decade or more before normal retirement age.”
After a nearly 32 year career, Birch will now begin collecting a $139,000 annual pension, an amount equal to over 90 percent of the $152,000 wage — which includes regular salary plus longevity pay — she collected in 2015.
Las Vegas manager gets a $38,500 raise for ‘gender equity issues’
Last year, the Las Vegas City Council awarded city manager Elizabeth Fretwell a $38,500 bonus to address “gender equity issues,” which bumped Fretwell’s total pay to $323,875, and $408,450 when benefits are included.
Drawing on data from Transparent Nevada’s sister site, TransparentCalifornia.com, it is clear that the bonus helped push her earnings well above her peers.
“Even managers in cities that are significantly larger and have a much higher cost of living — like San Diego and San Francisco — don’t take home that kind of cash earnings,” explained Fellner.
The chart lists the earnings of city managers or comparable administrators at several California and Nevada cities.
The earnings for Nevada cities reflect the 2016 calendar year, while the data for California cities is from the 2015 year. The data excludes benefits and reflects cash earnings only.
To view the entire dataset in a searchable and downloadable format, please visit the website TransparentNevada.com.
Total compensation is defined as total wages plus the employer-cost of health and retirement benefits.
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For more information, please contact Robert Fellner at 702-222-0642 or RF@npri.org.