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NPD Officer Ouellette tops list of Norwalk earners for 2020

Norwalk Police Officers Mark Suda and Russell Oullette wave at a passing tot while working in The SoNo Collection in October 2019. (FIle photo)

Updated, 2 a.m. Jan. 22: PDF added.

NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk Police officers have taken the top nine spots on the 2020 list of City employee earnings. Coming in at number 10 is Norwalk Public Schools Chief of School Operations Frank Costanzo.

Norwalk officials hesitated to release the list this year, citing concerns about phishing attempts and other Internet security issues.

“You must understand that our caution in releasing this information is based on experience and a desire to protect the interests of our hard working employees,” Deputy Corporation Counsel Jeffry Spahr wrote on Jan. 6, after explaining in a phone call that the City understood that it needed to provide the list in compliance of Freedom of Information Act rules.

Spahr expected to deliver the information in a different format than has been done, but the list came in a standard way.

And guess who’s on top? Police Officer Russell Ouellette, a number one breadwinner on and off for years.

 

 

Top earners

Ordinarily, the superintendent of schools makes the most money from the City of Norwalk. This year’s list has two supers as Steven Adamowski, Ph.D. retired in July and Alexandra Estrella, Ed. D., took over. Adamowski earned $205,048 from Norwalk in 2020 and Estrella is way down the list, about 150th, with $156,154.

The top 26:

  1. Norwalk Police Officer Russell Ouellette, $287,036
  2. Norwalk Police Lt. Thomas Mattera, $244,942
  3. Norwalk Police Officer George Daley, $244,089
  4. Norwalk Police Lt. John Praveen, $243,984
  5. Norwalk Police Officer Javier Mogollon, $236,409
  6. Norwalk Police Officer David Nieves, $231,031
  7. Norwalk Police Officer Mark Suda, $224,176
  8. Norwalk Police Lt. William Lowe, $220,295
  9. Norwalk Police Sgt. Joseph Moquin, $213,523
  10. Norwalk Public Schools Chief of School Operations Frank Costanzo, $211,842
  11. Norwalk Police Sgt. Richard Delallo, $211,412
  12. NPS Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton, $210,911
  13. Norwalk High School Principal Reginald Roberts, $209,513
  14. Brien McMahon High School Principal Scott Hurwitz, $209,144
  15. Norwalk Police Sgt. Kevin Markert, $208,352
  16. Norwalk Police Lt. Terrance Blake, $205,466
  17. NPS Chief of Specialized Learning and Student Services Yvette Goorevitch, $205,247
  18. NPS Chief of Digital Learning and Development Ralph Valenzisi, $205,127
  19. Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski, $205,048
  20. Norwalk Police Officer Michael DiMeglio, $204,602
  21. Norwalk Police Officer Hector Delgado, $202,895
  22. Norwalk Police Sgt. Peter White, $202,521
  23. Norwalk Police Officer Paul Wargo, $201,601
  24. Norwalk Police Officer Christopher Sgritta, $198,071
  25. Center for Global Studies Director Julie Parham, $197,933; P-Tech (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) Director Karen Amaker, $197,933

 

There are 41 police officers in the top 100 earners, 48 Norwalk Public Schools administrators and seven members of the Norwalk Fire Department.

Norwalk Police Officers rake in the dough by working many extra hours, some on overtime shifts and some as extra duty assignments. Overtime is paid by the City and extra work is paid by outside companies contracting for the help. The City gets a 15 percent administrative fee for every hour of extra duty worked by police officers, Sgt. David Orr has said.

“Having these cops work extra duty is actually helping the taxpayer because we’re getting an administrative fee,” Spahr said.

Then-Norwalk Finance Director Bob Barron called it “cost neutral” in 2017.

Officers on an extra work assignment are considered to be on duty, are wearing uniforms and a full gun belt, have a police radio and may have a patrol car; they respond to emergency calls, including medical situations, Orr said in 2017, contending that Norwalk is safer because more police officers are out there.

 

Identity theft?

There’s always a spike in fraud attempts when this list comes out, Spahr said.

“By publishing the names, titles, and salaries of all employees (Personally Identifiable Information, or PII) to the press and subsequently the global internet, it puts ALL City and BoE employees at real and quantifiable risk of identity theft, increased targeting by criminals, a barrage of spear-phishing attempts for fraudulent and criminal purposes, and potential financial loss to both the City and employee from fraud,” then-Information Technology (IT) Director Karen DelVecchio wrote. “We have seen these attempts happen over and over, every time this information is published.  It puts our employees and systems in harm’s way: the bad actors now know exactly who to target.  The higher the salary, the more relentless the bad actors.”

Spahr said IT issued a cautionary warning to the Comptroller’s Office:

“Please also alert your payroll team to expect the annual flood of fraud calls, emails and letters attempting to divert employee direct deposits to unauthorized bank accounts.  I know you and your team have put controls in place to thwart these criminal efforts and I appreciate your diligence.  Everyone needs to be cautious of increased or suspicious activity on the ESS portal as well.”

2020 salary list – partial

18 comments

Milly January 21, 2021 at 5:50 am

Somehow I don’t feel safer with police officers who are working 80 hour weeks – year round – year after year. When do they sleep? How are they physically able to do this?

David January 21, 2021 at 7:44 am

Do you have the full list and if so could you actually publish that it’s not like it takes up physical space but it would be quite interesting I’m also surprised that somebody making $150,000 you put in the 150th position on the list that is a terrifying amount of pay going to public sector employees I run 2 small businesses And our gross revenue is less than most of the cops I’ll be pretty depressed to find out that menial labor working for the town he’s probably making more than I do and working less than half hours so as a concerned taxpayer I think that the public should be made aware of what our people are making especially when they’re too busy to contact us and over things like doubling our assessments and not listen to the appeal despite sales evidence relevant at the time

David Muccigrosso January 21, 2021 at 8:03 am

Fraud is not an acceptable excuse when public accountability is at stake. I’m glad that this disclosure continues to happen, but we shouldn’t have to pull teeth or twist arms for it.

As to the moonlighting… The typical justification for moonlighting is that some officers need it to supplement their meager salaries. This might make sense for younger ones working at the bottom of the pay scale – it’s obvious that the $40-50k that officers make in some other parts of the country is not a livable salary in Norwalk – a quick Google search says that median income is $97k.

But the base salary has been established by NoN as somewhere over $90k. And these are SENIOR officers, already higher on the pay scale, making three times the base pay.

Look, I don’t begrudge anyone making their money. We’re ALL out on that hustle. But these are the public’s finances. The people need to consent to this arrangement, and I don’t see any evidence that there’s been any kind of effort to even let us know that it’s happened.

Someone, please. Make it make sense.

Bryan Meek January 21, 2021 at 8:50 am

So sick of this list being published. A total invasion of privacy. No one needs to know what rank and file city employees personally make. Department heads, ok. But there is no value in this other than stirring the pot of envy. I wouldn’t oppose a list of positions and what they earned, but leave the names out of it.

John O'Neill January 21, 2021 at 1:43 pm

For those that squawk about the police compensation don’t blame the cops. You should look in the mirror. You voted for the officials who negotiated those contracts. Maybe voters should actually think before blindly pulling the lever in November. Free Ice Cream at Politician’s socials are really not free after all.

John Levin January 21, 2021 at 2:58 pm

Houston, we have a problem. The levels of compensation paid to certain NPD officers appears excessive, manipulated, and out of control. Using the compensation data reported by NancyOnNorwalk on 8/11/20 (https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/a-look-at-norwalk-police-overtime-statistics/) and doing some math, Officer Ouellette’s 2020 compensation is 16.4% higher than it was the previous year (2019:
Russell Oullette was Norwalk’s top earner with $246,587.81). Assuming his Regular pay rose by $1/hour in 2020, then Regular pay was $85,300 – which implies Extra Duty and Overtime pay combined was $201,736. Can that be right? If yes, then his Extra Duty and Overtime compensation rose by 23.5% from 2019 to 2020, which suggests that his Extra Duty and Overtime hours increased by more than 20% in 2020? Is that correct? If yes, then it appears likely this officer would be working over 55 hours and possibly close to 60 hours extra EVERY week of the year (on top of 40 hours regular), or is working a total of approximately 14 hours, every day, for 365 days for 2020. I wish the NPD, or Norwalk’s Police Commission, would improve the information disclosure so this data could be known publicly instead of derived and estimated by inquiring residents.

NPD’s union contract is long – the contract which expired on 6/30/20 is posted on the city’s website here: https://www.norwalkct.org/DocumentCenter/View/625/Police-Contract?bidId=
Mayor Rilling has indicated that a new contract has been “ratified” to replace the contract which expired over 6 months ago, but it appears the new contract is not available to the public yet, and it appears unlikely the Common Council has received it for approval. The old contract prevented officers from working more than 16 hours in a 24 hour period (combined regular+extra and OT). But doesn’t that clause allow officers effectively to work as much 112 per week total? Am I the only citizen that sees a problem with that?

Norwalk’s Police Commission is tasked with oversight of the NPD. It meets monthly, and the next scheduled meeting, open to the public, is next Monday, January 25 and may be attended by Zoom at this website location: https://www.norwalkct.org/1913/Meeting-Notices
The meeting agenda appears to be not yet available to the public. I can think of a bunch of questions worth asking.

Norwalk resident January 21, 2021 at 9:41 pm

Cmon Jeff Spahr. How can you say it helps the taxpayer? Too make that much in overtime means you are taking a nap on our dime during your 40 hour shift. I am all for them working some dirt jobs but now it has gotten out of control. Officers found at a hotel during their shift is a perfect example.Nancy on Norwalk figures Officer Oullette would have to work 90 hours a week for 50 weeks to make last years wage which was way less than 2020. Is he now working 110 hours a week? Obviously, overtime hours are crossing over regular hours somehow. Lets investigate that and see if it helps the Norwalk taxpayer. Are the police cars, gas, and maintenance free while working OT? BTW they leave the car running the whole time to keep battery charged for the lights to run. The mayor doesnt do anything because he is part of the police fraternity. Really is disgusting to witness but please dont insult our intelligence. Jeff Spahr is supposed to defend the police but also work for the residents of Norwalk.

James January 21, 2021 at 10:46 pm

With the cost of medical benefits so out of control, police working OT is not a bad thing.

How much did the city get in administrative fees for extra duty during the year? If they are using all that equipment the fee should be 25%

Steve January 22, 2021 at 7:04 pm

The usual suspects of Nabob Negativism also known as the leaders of the Trumpublican party here reverse course when it comes to police pay. They regularly bemoan the Teacher’s Union and perks of City Hall but when it comes to police pay they’re silent mouses. It is the blue wall of silence- see nothing, near nothing speak nothing critical of police officers-and it’s ok to harass those who do. I have little doubt that Police officers, like teachers, firefighters and all the other public service employees enter the profession wanting to do the right thing, but the perverse incentive for Norwalk cops is to work 1000s of hours a year, way beyond what any human resource expert would say is reasonable to ensure effectiveness. The worst example is the two cops caught drinking and sleeping on the job- but it’s virtually assured that others are also finding their own ways to rest up that are far less egregious. Not so different than the ex-Governor of Wisconsin,f Scott Walker, who famously attacked and destroyed teachers but never laid a glove on the police union which not surprisingly regularly supported him. Paraphrasing George Wallace, bullies now, bullies then and bullies forever.

JustATaxpayer January 22, 2021 at 8:02 pm

I am conservative. Defund the police. Recall out 5 year tenured cop made $220k a year and able to drink beers and cozy up at a Main Ave hotel while on a shift.

James January 24, 2021 at 9:31 pm

On the flip side, cell phone use while on duty in Norwalk is disturbing. I saw an officer texting while driving today and not paying attention to anything. There is now a new position in the PD to inspect officers because whatever they do to get sworn in is not enough.

JOHN ROMANO January 26, 2021 at 8:38 pm

My understanding is that Police have a base pay plus overtime rate per contract when working for the city. Otherwise it is mandated by city code that certain projects taking place in the city have a police officer present for traffic control or other needs. These fee’s are paid by the contractor. But through the city. The city tacks on a 15% premium which in essence reduces the taxpayer burden of the police force. So in essence the more they make, the less it costs the city per officer doing dirt work. I would love to see them all make large $$$ at the end of the year. Also keep in mind that there are many projects being built in the city including infrasrtruce for the Walk Bridge projects and rail work, apartments everywhere and normal utility installation, storm repairs etc etc.

M Murray January 27, 2021 at 11:55 am

When figuring out the number of hours officers work per week, you need to remember that since police work weekends, most officers worn a 5-2, 5-3 schedule. This means that they work 5 days, have two off and then work five more and have 3 off. In essence, they work 10 out of every 15 days. Then since the work holidays, they have 13 “floating” holidays they can take whenever they want. Plus senior officers will get 3 weeks vacation. A senior patrolman will get approximately 149 days off per year, which he is available to work 16 hours of extra work on each of those days. This averages out to 45 hours per week without working one extra hour during his regular work week. So if he just worked his regular 40 hours plus doubles on his days off, he would average 85 hour work weeks. Now no one does this, but it shows how many hours they can work on their days off, so saying the work 16 hour days every day is a little misleading.

Laura Giancaspro February 9, 2021 at 7:41 am

Has this list been completed yet? If so, where can I find the pdf? Thank you.

@MMurray, although some people may not agree with what you have to say, I believe it is because your factual responses always set the record–and them–straight. I appreciate your candor and ability to explain “hot-button” issues without letting emotions permeate your informative, and often educational, replies.

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