SARATOGA COUNTY — A list of Saratoga County’s top earners for 2020 includes several long-time employees who have retired or otherwise left county service in recent months, as well as the registered nurse who has overseen much of the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The list, obtained by The Daily Gazette through a Freedom of Information Law request, shows that District Attorney Karen A. Heggen is the county’s top salary-earner, as she was in 2018 and 2019. Her compensation, set by state law, was $208,065.
The only non-salary employee among the county’s top earners was Erin Murray, a supervising public health nurse with the county Public Health Department. Murray has been deeply involved in the county’s response to the public health crisis.
Due to the pandemic, the county set up an emergency operations center in March to field public questions about then little-known virus and illness. The county has also initiated an extensive contract-tracing effort — hiring dozens of new employees — that included working into the evening and on weekends.
As one of the leaders of the effort, Murray earned an $80,375 salary and $60,926 in overtime, putting her seventh on the top earners list. County officials could not say how much was spent last year on Public Health Department overtime, but the supervisors last March allocated $1 million for the county’s COVID-19 response, and about $600,000 of that was spent before the end of the year — at least some of it on public health overtime.
Behind Heggen, in the No. 2 position among the county’s top earners, was County Administrator Spencer P. Hellwig, who took home $182,942. Hellwig, however, is no longer working for the county, in large part due to fallout from the county’s early handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the behest of county Board of Supervisors Chairman Todd Kusnierz, R-Moreau, Hellwig was not reappointed at the board’s Jan. 6 2021 organizational meeting, in a vote that split supervisors.
Hellwig, a 33-year county employee who was administrator for nearly a decade, was criticized by Kusnierz and some others for his handling of the county’s initial response to the pandemic, when the county briefly offered bonus pay for employees who were reporting to work. Critics accused Hellwig of overstepping his authority when setting county pay policy, but an investigation found no wrongdoing on his part.
The No. 3 earner, County Attorney Stephen M. Dorsey, retired at the end of last year after 10 years in the position, and many years before that as an assistant county attorney. He earned $162,480.
The No. 4 earner, Deputy County Administrator Chad M. Cooke, earned $147,154. He just changed jobs, though, becoming the county’s new public works commissioner earlier this month. He replaced long-time DPW Commissioner Keith Manz, who retired last fall. Manz was No. 8 on the earnings list, at $138,084.
Others on the list are Social Services Commissioner Tina Potter, No. 5, $144,478; Sheriff Michael H. Zurlo, No. 6, $141,300; Public Defender Andrew Blumenberg, No. 9, $137,410; and Commissioner of Mental Health and Addiction Services, No. 10, $135,935.