I was happy to see that the Empire Center for New York State Policy has augmented its already rich and rewarding Web site, www.seethroughny.net with the payrolls of the counties, cities, towns and villages of our fair state, so that we now have info on 179,000 people who work for our local governments. You can go to the Web site, look them up and find out how much they make.
That’s in addition to the state payroll and the payrolls of school districts, public authorities and special districts, which were already on the Web site.
Thus does the Internet little by little open a window on government and admit rays of sunshine, saving snoopy people like me the bother of filing Freedom of Information requests and then sometimes waiting weeks for a response.
A few things that struck me in this latest electronic treasure chest:
u The county government employees of Schenectady are the highest paid in the eight-county Capital Region, with an average salary of $46,073.
u The highest paid cops and firefighters in the region are in Albany, with an average of $78,507. Those in Schenectady are second, at $75,334. Those in Mechanicville are last, at a paltry $38,060. (Note: All these numbers are for the state’s 2008-09 fiscal year, which ended March 31.)
u The person with the largest number of municipal employers is Raynor B. Duncombe of Schoharie, with 11, those being Schoharie County, the village of Richmondville, and nine towns ranging alphabetically from Broome to Wright, though Mr. Duncombe informs me he no longer works for Wright.
He is a lawyer, and gets paid just a few thousand dollars a year from each of those entities for his legal services – a total of $37,492 last year.
“I don’t like being Number One on the hit parade,” he told me good-naturedly.
I was interested in his situation because I remembered the fuss from last year when it emerged that some lawyers were being reported as regular employees of various school districts and BOCES when actually they were on contract.
It makes a big difference. A regular employee is a passenger on the state retirement gravy train; a contract worker is not.
Mr. Duncombe assured me he meets the requirements of a regular employee, deserving of retirement benefits, and has already been checked out.
Emily De Santis, spokeswoman for the state comptroller, said he is in the process of being checked out now, to see if he qualifies.
u The person listed with the third most municipal employers is Ed Holland, the animal control officer in Washington County. He is shows up as being employed by six towns plus one village, but he tells me the actual number is 14, which would blow Mr. Duncombe out of the water, or out of the hit parade.
The reason for the discrepancy, he says, is that some of those are on a contract basis and thus do not count for state retirement purposes.
His pay is modest, a total of just $14,621 for the seven salaried positions, plus what he gets from the contractual gigs as well as from lodging animals in the shelter that he owns.
Nor is the pay necessarily reflective of the work he performs. He gets a token $225 a year from the village of Greenwich, for example, but when I talked to him the other day he said, “I just picked up a skunk there, and it took me an hour.
“I’m not getting rich,” he said.
I suggested to him he consider becoming a cop, which is more lucrative, but I did not convince him. He said, “One thing about an animal, I can generally tell you what an animal is going to do. People are different. People are unpredictable.”
Among the many things that did not surprise me was the fact that 59 Schenectady cops and firefighters made more than $100,000 last year, led by police officer Dwayne Johnson with $169,461.
He’s the fellow who is suspected of working as a private security guard at a Hess station at the same time he was supposed to be on duty as a cop, and then cheating both employers by spending his hours at an apartment. He has been on leave — paid leave — since February.
I’m not going to tell you how much cops get paid on Long Island, because I’m afraid you will pull up stakes and move down there to apply for one of those jobs, and we will lose you as a reader.
Meanwhile it has come to my attention that the Schenectady City School District has made a video of its June high school graduation ceremony, and while the speeches of the class valedictorian and salutatorian are included, the speech of the class president, Marse Pulley, is not.
I would inquire about the reason for this omission except that Superintendent Eric Ely spurns my attentions, so I am handicapped in that regard.
The video is available for your viewing pleasure on YouTube — just search for “Schenectady graduation” and you’ll find it. It’s in three 10-minute parts. It is credited to “Schenectady City Schools’ Television,” which probably means it’s intended for Channel 17, the local education channel.
Ms. Pulley thinks her speech was dropped because administrators didn’t like it. She says those sitting behind her and to her left as she spoke, which would have been Ely and then-board-President Jeff Janiszewski, talked audibly throughout her remarks.
Those remarks, a copy of which she provided me, are not exactly inflammatory, but they do include the following:
“I hope in the coming years the board begins to listen to what the students have begged for in our own way. That decisions are no longer made based on fear, but on what is truly needed.”
She also made a plea for “a comprehensive sexual education program that educates all students.”
That doesn’t seem to me as edgy as the speech given in rhymed couplets by the class salutatorian, which began, “The guys are pimpin’, the girls are fine. We are the class of 2009.” But then, he was the son of the board president.