Friday, May 14, 2010


  • In an era of layoffs, unpaid furloughs and reduced benefits at most levels of government, workers for the little-known, taxpayer-financed agency that deals with Cook County’s waste and storm water are a throwback to far better times: They continue to enjoy high salaries, big overtime checks and annual cash payouts for unused sick-leave days. The paychecks of many agency employees have grown by more than 30 percent in the past five years, far outstripping the pace in other local government agencies and the rate of inflation.
  • An investigation by the Chicago News Cooperative and the Better Government Association found that the number of employees with six-figure salaries has more than doubled since 2005 at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. The ranks of district officials with salaries exceeding $200,000 a year more than tripled — to 16 from 5 — during the same period, payroll records show. For Cook County taxpayers, the cost of financing the district has also risen. The owner of a home worth $200,000 pays about $135 a year toward the district’s budget, an increase of almost 30 percent in the last decade.
  • Terrence J. O’Brien, the longtime district board president, defended the high wages as necessary to retain hard-working, skilled employees. Mr. O’Brien said the district would not grant cost-of-living pay increases this year, after recently raising its tax levy to help plug a $24 million budget shortfall. Besides cost-of-living increases, the district gives merit pay increases based on evaluations from supervisors.
  • “Our people are not here because of who they know but by what they know, and that is different from other agencies,” Mr. O’Brien said. “Quality, professional, well-educated people do more than people who are watching the clock.”
  • Critics question whether the big pay increases are justified in the midst of cutbacks elsewhere. “Do you really have to pay them that much to keep them from leaving or are you paying them so much because you can?” said David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “Just because a taxing body is recession-proof doesn’t mean you have to lavish those raises on employees.”
  • “It’s just how we’ve treated our employees because of what they have to go through to get hired,” Mr. O’Brien said. “Who, when they get out of college, wants to take an exam?”
  • One of the highest-paid aides is Donna McGowan-Watson, the daughter of Commissioner Barbara J. McGowan. Both Ms. McGowan-Watson and another aide to her mother, Lemuettia Hicks, a daughter of Alderman Carrie M. Austin (34th Ward), are paid almost $88,000 a year.
    “Sometimes they work on the weekends,” Ms. McGowan said. “None of our jobs are eight hours a day, five days a week.”
  • Commissioner Frank Avila also employs his daughter, Audrey, as well as Mr. Longo, who in the last five years has seen his salary climb to almost $84,000 from less than $60,000. Mr. Avila noted that Mr. Longo’s vote fraud conviction was more than 25 years ago.
  • Asked about the high salaries for top executives, Mr. Avila said the demands of keeping the environment clean required employees with higher technical expertise than many other local government employees had. He added, “Very few people leave the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.”
No shit very few people leave. These parasites at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District get raises when everyone else is taking a cut. I don't believe this O'Brien clown has the stones to say it's because his workforce is so much smarter than other government employees. Then he calls us all clock watchers! I'd like to see him or any of his top shelf employees come down to the OEMC for a 12 hour shift on the ops floor. We'd have to call an ambulance for them.
The bosses down there can hire their own family members to work in the same office with them. And then we're supposed to believe they get paid so much because they work long hours? Sounds like these rats have been drinking sewer water for too long.

Good work by the Chicago News Cooperative and Better Government Association to shine a light on these cockroaches. The city's election season is coming up. Let's hope this article puts some heat on the politicians. I'd love to see this O'Brien clown forced out.

1 comment:

  1. Typical city business plan: layoff the line workers, hire friends and family for supervisory positions, pay them all 100k+

    I'm no business major but it sounds like disaster to me... and it's straight from Daley's School of Mismanagement.