SCHENECTADY COUNTY -- The highest-paid employee in Schenectady County government in 2019 didn't even work for the county most of the year.
Long-term county manager Kathleen Rooney, who retired last spring after a 32-year career with the county, earned $220,214 for the year, due in large part to a $142,842 retirement payout for accrued and unused vacation time, sick time and other benefits.
Rooney was one of four county employees -- all managers or professionals -- who earned more than $200,000 in compensation in 2019, according to records provided in response to a Freedom of Information Law request. That total was down from six county employees topping the $200,000 mark in 2018.
Three of the people among the highest paid 15 people were senior managers who retired during 2019 and received retirement payouts. In addition to Rooney, they were undersheriff Gordon Pollard, who grossed $156,499, including an $88,672 payout, and public works director Joseph Ryan, who grossed $141,989, including a $118,084 retirement distribution.
Ryan retired last February after 20 years in the role. Pollard worked for the Sheriff's Department for 38 years, and retired at the end of July.
County Attorney Chris Gardner said managers are allowed to accumulate and be paid out unused sick time and vacation time under the policies that govern unionized employees, but managers with more than 20 years of service -- like Rooney, Pollard and Ryan -- are allowed to cash out additional unused time.
"With Kathy, if she used one sick day a year, it was a lot, and I don't think she used all her vacation time, either," Gardner said.
While dozens of top earners earn more than $100,000 annually, the median county employee salary is far less.
Overall, the median salary of the 1,489-person Schenectady County workforce in 2018 was $49,380, according to an analysis by the Empire Center for Public Policy in Albany. That is the second-highest in the eight-county Capital Region, behind only Saratoga County.
Those earning more than $200,000 last year were Rooney; Glendale Home Medical Director Dr. Jung-Wen Chen, $215,529; District Attorney Robert Carney, $210,110; and Ray Gillen, county economic development and planning director, at $203,612.
The highest-paid, rank-and-file employee was Lance Harvey, a senior child protective services caseworker with the county Department of Social Services. Harvey earned $78,471 in base salary, and $112,045 in overtime, because he has been willing to be on call in evenings and on weekends, Gardner said, and often has to respond to situations.
Gardner praised Harvey for his work ethic. "He'll take the beeper every evening, and he's working a lot," Gardner said. "Pretty much something is always happening. He does a lot of work, he's always willing to work."
Two jail employees, corrections Lt. Daniel Lachanski and corrections Officer James Dickinson, made the list by working extensive overtime, as did sheriff's patrol Sgt. Jason Temple. But unlike 2018, corrections officers did not earn more than top county managers.
Gardner said overtime is being managed differently now, and the county's overall overtime costs are down about 10 percent, while still maintaining the staffing levels required by the state Commission of Corrections.
SCHENECTADY COUNTY TOP 15 EARNERS
NAME and TITLE BASE SALARY OVERTIME OTHER GROSS PAY
1. Kathleen Rooney
County manager, ret. $77,372 $142,842 $220,214
2. Dr. Jung-Wen Chen
Medical director $215,529 $215,529
3. Robert Carney
District attorney $209,309 $458 $210,110
4. Ray Gillen
Planning commissioner $199,612 $4,000 $203,612
5. Lance Harvey
Senior caseworker $78,471 $112,045 $190,517
6. James Dickinson
Corrections officer $62,410 $89,545 + $16,842 retro $2,719 $171,516
7. Daniel Lachanski
Corrections lieutenant $77,292 $68,900 + $16,508 retro $5,091 $167,791
8. Michael Geraci
Patrol sergeant $68,480 $91,081 $4,806 $164,367
9. Gordon Pollard
Undersheriff, ret. $67,827 $88,672 $156,499
10. Lori Tambasco $144,053 $4,000 $148,053
Glendale Home administrator