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Schools, police top earners on Norwalk 2013 payroll

Tony Daddona speaks to the Norwalk Board of Education Finance Committee one year ago, when he was serving as interim superintendent.

NORWALK, Conn. – Tony Daddona, who filled in as acting superintendent of schools for half of 2013 before assuming the newly created title of deputy superintendent, topped the list of top wage earners on city payroll in 2013.

Daddona was paid $219,392.96, just over $19,000 more than next person on the list, Norwalk Police officer Russell Ouellette, who picked up $199,102.39 in salary and overtime.

The two men topped the list of Norwalk’s top 100 wage earners for the second year in a row. Last year, Daddona made $198,490.95 and Ouellette $190,732.55.

The 2013 list, provided by the city, was dominated by school (49) and police (30) employees. The remainder of the top 100 came from the fire department (11, none in the Top 50) and city administration (10).

The complete 2013 salary list is attached at the end of this report.

Topping the city administrators was Director of Planning and Zoning Michael Greene, at $155,482.11, No. 30 on the list. He was followed by Deputy Corporation Counsel Jeffrey Spahr at $148,470.61 (48), Director of Finance Tom Hamilton at $146, 313.80 (51) and Comptroller Frederic Gilden at $144,004.65 (52).

Also in the top 100: DPW chief Hal Alvord ($141,675.05, 62nd), Info Tech Director Karen Del Vecchio ($140,227.14, 64th), Fire Chief Denis McCarthy ($135,445.58, 87th), Chief Building Official William Ireland ($134,567.18, 92nd), Principal Civil Engineer Richard Linnartz ($134,492.15, 93rd) and Director of Management & Budget Robert Barron ($133,722.77, 95th).

Mayor Richard Moccia, who served 10.5 months in 2013, was 414th on the list at $104,029.21. Town Clerk Rick McQuaid made $85,563.90, 932nd on the list.

Three employees who resigned or were terminated after accusations involving larceny, misuse of a credit card an insubordination and misconduct, were paid more than $221,000 before they left, much of it while they were on paid leave.

Robert Polselli, the Norwalk Public Schools director of technology who was suspended Dec. 13, 2012 and submitted a negotiated letter of resignation effective in June after an investigation into allegedly improper purchase made with a school credit card, was paid $87,509.81.

Assistant Town Clerk Debbie Troy, who was placed on paid leave of absence in January while an investigation was conducted into missing money from the clerk’s office, made $37,653.37. Troy was fired in late June and charged with larceny Oct. 30.

Facilities Director Mark Gorian, who spent more than three months on paid leave before being terminated Oct. 2 after and investigation for “possible willful misconduct, including insubordination,” according to a story in The Hour, was paid $96,435.96.

Not on the salary list as they are not considered city employees, but employees of the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, were Tad Diesel, Norwalk marketing and business development director, at $88,400; Margaret Suib, Norwalk fair housing officer, $88,045.36; and David Shockley, mayor’s neighborhood improvement coordinator, $51,385.88.

The preponderance of school and police employees has drawn fire from some taxpayers. Norwalk’s teachers are among the best paid in the state, according to an arbitration report released in 2012 that placed then at No. 5.

After Daddona, the next 27 school employees listed were principals, housemasters and other administrator. The first “regular teacher” listed was Joseph Madaffari, who was paid $152,002.04 (44th on the list) at Brien McMahon High School, where he is athletic director. Nicholas Saccinelli, a Norwalk High teacher, was the next regular teacher listed at $133,626.61, the 96th-best paid person in Norwalk in 2013. There were no other teachers in the top 100.

Overtime, including money paid for officers on special details paid for by private companies, and retirement pay accounted for the heavy police presence in the Top 100. In addition to Ouellette, Officer Paul Larsen was third on the list at $184,452.21, followed by Lt. Shawn Wong Won at $176,186.01 (4th) and Sgt. Charles Perez at $175,914.36 (5th). Wong Won and Perez’s totals included retirement pay, according to a report in The Hour. Lt Ashley Gonzalez was next with $174,033.58 (6th).

In October, Police Chief Tom Kulhawik said the department’s authorized staffing level is 181, but only 178 positions are funded in the current budget. “We currently have 175 on the roster as we had a recent retirement, etc.,” he said. “We will be filling those vacancies off our new list and test, which is in progress now.”

We asked if there is a tipping point at which it is cheaper to add staff than to pay overtime.

“The OT question is a complicated one,” Kulhawik said. “There is a breaking point as well as other factors which play into this, but, generally speaking, it is sometimes cheaper to pay OT than to hire additional officers. However, with that said, as I noted, there is a balance that must be managed.”

It is not just a dollars-and-cents issue, he explained.

“It also depends on what you expect of the officers. As you add additional duties and assignments such as SRO’s (school resources officers), you need additional bodies to do it,” he said. “For patrol staffing, it is an easier answer, and in those cases the OT can be cheaper as you don’t have the benefits and training and equipment costs. We use this balance in determining the budget and look at both salary figures and overtime when determining how to properly fund at the least expense.”

To see the full Norwalk 2013 salary list, click here: 2013 Norwalk Salary List

33 comments

anon January 2, 2014 at 8:22 am

$221,000 was paid out to the three employees who were terminated because of larceny, misuse of credit cards or insubordination, most of it on paid leave. Being in a public employee union has it perks.

$219,000 for Daadonna. Got to love public education. Given Dadonna’s skillset, in the real world he’d wouldn’t be paid 1/2 that.

marjoriem January 2, 2014 at 9:25 am

Anon, Daddona did a great job as Interim. He brought back a calm,peaceful and consistent atmosphere at a time when it was badly needed. He knew he was a “place-holder” and did exactly what was needed. He held administrators accountable and kept the district moving forward without causing chaos. It was precisely the “break” everyone on the staff needed after Marks. If you are an Apple, you will continue with your diatribe against Daddona…….BTW, he and Rivera work very well together! I guess Rivera appreciates his “skill set.”

marjoriem January 3, 2014 at 11:13 am

How does Ditrio make more than a middle school principal? Seems like his salary is inflated. Where is the money coming from?

Piberman January 4, 2014 at 10:41 am

We’re fortunate the City’s astute and long serving politicians don’t see any connection between teacher salaries (5th highest in state), high property taxes, school reputation and declining property values. So let’s make Norwalk no. 1 in teacher salaries. We can be the “best” in the state. In both salaries and taxes. Let’s fulfill Mayor Rilling’s campaign pledge to “give teachers more respect”. That’s what’s holding us back – more respect and not paying higher salaries. Let’s make the New Norwalk truly Number 1 !

Piberman January 5, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Marjoriem

If Norwalk teachers, 5th highest paid in the state, produced results anywhere near our neighboring communities we’d have another discussion.
Their top pay reflects a hostile union and indifferent politicians. Paying 5th highest salaries for a community ranking only 19th in income would embarrass any self respecting union. But not Norwalk teachers. Old timers remember when teachers were well respected, paid modestly in accord with our incomes, mostly lived in our City and the school system admired. Respect can’t be bought.
No matter how high their salaries.

marjoriem January 5, 2014 at 10:40 pm

Are you seriously thinking that Norwalk could possibly compete with our neighbors? Students who come from low income families don’t stand a chance if you’ve read any of the research from the leading universities. Low income students are far behind middle and upper income students before 18 months of age. It’s all about vocabulary!
BTW, would you care to reveal your income and level of education? I am wondering if you believe teachers don’t have the right to earn an income commensurate with their level of education.

irishgirl January 6, 2014 at 12:20 am

How about the teachers earning what they are worth? If our kids had higher test scores then they would be worth their salaries, but the kids don’t so the teacher’s aren’t.
*
In the private sector, you get raises when you EARN them.

Piberman January 6, 2014 at 1:02 am

Marjoriem

Teachers have no “rights” to income based on their education which in many if not most cases isn’t much different from the community. Anymore than other members of our society. Their salaries ought to reflect in part the income of the community and their performance. On both matters Norwalk teachers are well overpaid. Salaries 5th highest in the state in a community that ranks only 19th in the state. And no publicly available evidence of superior performance by Norwalk school teachers or administrators. The hostile teachers union has clearly taken advantage of Norwalk taxpayers required to pay excessive property taxes. Stagnant property values 3 years running illustrate the consequences of excessive property taxes funding excessive salaries paid to Norwalk public employees. Once upon a time Norwalk had an admired school system with teachers widely respected mostly living in our City earning salaries reflecting our modest income levels. Now we have very different circumstances.

You may want to check your facts January 6, 2014 at 1:09 am

Thankfully, crime is at an all time low in the city and there were no Homicides, so obviously the cops deserve what they make.

TG January 6, 2014 at 3:42 am

As a teacher, albeit not currently employed, I will speak up for teachers. We had a teacher who left out struggling Norwalk school while I worked with him and began to teach in Greenwich. He said it was amazing how he went from being an okay teacher to an awesome teacher overnight. Judging by his test scores, he suddenly became the producer of high performing student results.

When schools make radical gains with poor performing populations- usually including low income and/or minority populations, it is the result of school wide reforms. Even in schools where there is not a significant achievement gap, it is unusual to find one teacher whose students are just sailing above the rest. But especially within communities where everything from adequate nutrition to parent education level to early childhood school readiness affects a child’s ability to succeed in school, school wide, even district wide reforms would be necessary for Norwalk teachers to “prove” their worth. The previously mentioned teacher pointed out how much easier his job got in the more affluent Greenwich. Simply having a class full of students who came each day with supplies was a way to not lose a couple minutes of instructional time. The fact that their hw was almost always completed, that they’d had a decent meal that day, that their home language was typically English- each if these factors helped him look like a better teacher. There are many teachers inNorwalk working very hard just to make minimal or modest gains , but those minimal gains are something in light of what it takes to get there. Try looking at it this way- if a doctor chooses a specialty like oncology, where his patients are far more likely to die due to the fact that they came to him in a condition that was already deteriorated- no matter how hard he worked- does he deserve less pay than an orthopedist whose success rate is much easier to assess?

By the way, how many private sector companies require every middle management employee to have a masters? And how many have the percentage of employees that have more education than that, including doctoral degrees, that our public school system does?

More of the Same January 6, 2014 at 9:04 am

@TG. You probably never have, but look at it another way. By overpaying our teachers and for other services we have diminished the services much needed in the safety net that help to improve educational outcomes more so than paying top dollar to teachers.
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And fyi…..most mid level managers in large corporations have advanced degrees that are much more difficult to obtain than a simple M.S.Ed. And very few of our PhDs even come from reputable, accredited institutions. More like these on line factories that are sprouting up.

TG January 6, 2014 at 9:17 am

You could neither be more wrong, not more insulting, @More of the same. So, your assertion, is that if we deducted what, $10,000-15,000, maybe even $20,000 off each teacher’s salary, which would really put us at the bottom of the rankings of salaries in CT, that savings would actually bring the large number of families in need of a safety net to a level of security -food, shelter, safe streets, educational level of

TG January 6, 2014 at 9:27 am

(Hit post too soon) education level of parents, etc? That savings would bring the standard of living up so high for families that teaching in Borwalk would be similar to teaching in Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan? I don’t think so. Furthermore, I know lots and lots of people in mid level management, with bachelor’s degrees only- what advanced degrees are you referring to? My business friends who have achieved degrees that would be very difficult to obtain would be those with MBAs, and they are not mid level management, they are executives with six figure salaries. Finally, I do not know one doctorate obtained be my colleagues that was obtained online. But your post certainly clarifies one of the nebulous areas that make teaching in lower performing public schools challenging as well- the idea that you must constantly defend yourself from the public perception that you are an undereducated and overpaid non-professional.

More of the Same January 6, 2014 at 9:32 am

Your grammar is tough to comprehend, but yes. By allocating more and more money to public sector salaries we are effectively reducing the economic opportunities for the private sector. Currently the pendulum is way, way out of balance. The fact is public sector salaries have been growing a 2x the pace of the real economy. If you can’t look at this rationally then it supports my argument even further that your post graduate education is weak in terms of it never affording you basic analytical skills.

More of the Same January 6, 2014 at 9:39 am

You posted in midst of my post. So, before you counter with more baseless suppositions, please understand that I believe teaching to be one of the more difficult jobs there is. I just don’t support the exorbitant rate of growth as decades of empirical data have shown that it makes no difference in terms of educational outcomes and there is mounting evidence that the overbearing cost of government is what is really crushing society. We need balance. That is all I am saying. And the average MBA holder makes around $100,000 a year. Our average teacher is making well over that now when you prorate the vacation and sick time.

TG January 6, 2014 at 9:40 am

Ha- you know that is so funny, having had to pick up a post where one left off, from an iPhone with auto-corrections, no less, I figured there would be errors. Upon rereading my posts, I thought, oh here we go, @more of the same is going to comment on my writing. Of course. 😉 You got me there, @more of the same. My points still stand, and your argument re:the safety net is very weak, as are your insinuations about the level of education among teachers.

marjoriem January 6, 2014 at 9:42 am

Once upon a time, Norwalk had quite a wealthy tax base. Then came white flight. Berman, you have your own reality, which differs from what is now Norwalk. If you really want the truth, check out your “once upon a time” incomes to what is now happening. While you are at it, check out whether really higher income families are now sending their students to private schools. In Norwalk, the reality is much like inner city schools across the nation. Test scores are significantly lower in lower income neighborhoods. How would you explain that? It is obvious you do not respect teachers. It is obvious that you don’t feel that teachers in Norwalk deserve the level of pay that Fairfield County teachers receive. So how do you feel about our new superintendent’s salary? If he gets his bonus, he will be the highest paid superintendent in CT. I am curious if you will answer that one!

More of the Same January 6, 2014 at 10:01 am

I see logic isn’t part of your post grad curricula and the iphone 5 has better grammar left on its own. Your own point about your pal in Greenwich completely undermines your position. The issue is not one of classroom economics, rather it is home economics. By allocating more resources from the private sector into the public sector you are reducing the chances of those lowest in skills in society to earn a living. This disrupts the lower income family unit that is essential to giving children the foundation they need to learn.

TG January 6, 2014 at 10:30 am

Honestly, @more of the same, I’m not into drama, and thus, actually post very infrequently anymore. I certainly choose not to have a back and forth with someone who feels compelled to insert a personal insult into every response. So that said, we have different perspectives on the rational analysis of the economics of the issue. And we can agree to disagree. My original point to others reading, is to give perspective from the inside, so to speak. The job is much more demanding in an urban environment than people who have never done it can understand, and our public school teachers are worthy of more respect than has been afforded by several NoN commenters, as well as a salary commensurate with the education and work they bring to their jobs.

More of the Same January 6, 2014 at 12:23 pm

You knew the demands of the job before you took it. No one is forcing you to teach. However, you, by the dictates of state law are FORCING us to pay for same level services at a growth rate which is simply not sustainable. If it hasn’t yet, it will come to a point where the system breaks down. Detroit and Stockton are the tip of the iceberg. There are 100s and 100s of municipalities in similar situations financially.

You may want to check your facts January 6, 2014 at 3:52 pm

TG is trying to have a honest dialogue with you and all you can do is insult them? Why? It’s fairly obvious that no matter what anyone says that would be construed as defense of their position will be discounted as “trying to protect the cash cow”. As it stands right now, there is absolutely no danger nor indication that Norwalk is on the “brink” of collapse as you say. You cite a city like Detroit as if it somehow comparable to a city like Norwalk. Detroit’s problems began in the 50’s and stem from a multitude of issues, one of the largest being that then when they zoned the city they did not include the surrounding suburbs in their tax base and relied solely on the inner city itself. You also had a string of very corrupt politicians that sold the city up the river for decades on end. Where is the indication that this is happening in Norwalk? It’s like your angry about “something” and teachers are just the easiest target to take shots at because they are unable to defend themselves.

More of the Same January 6, 2014 at 4:58 pm

I support teachers. I just don’t support paying them in excess of what the market will bear. It has been going on for too long now and the minor concessions still do not bring things back in line. Just because Norwalk is in good shape right now with only $300 million in debt, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t heavily rely on state funding. Watch Illinois in the next few years and its cities that rely on it for too much.

marjoriem January 6, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Tell me, “More of the Same,” do you support professional athletes and their salaries? Should a professional athlete earn millions of dollars? What about movie stars, popular vocalists? Are these people worth more yearly because their salaries don’t depend on tax dollars?
It does seem that you have anger problems because of your taxes. Should you be taking this out on the people who educate our children? When athletes earn what teachers earn, and teachers earn an athletes salary, maybe then we can talk. Until then………you are not worth our time.

David January 6, 2014 at 9:47 pm

What do you mean “what the market will bear”? The “market” is bearing it. People are paying their taxes. Nobody likes paying taxes but you’re the only one screaming holy-apocalypse about it. Where are the droves of people leaving Norwalk for tax shelters? Where is are the residents that are defaulting over the undue burden? All the scare mongering about a Democratic Mayor raising taxes and what happened? The citizens of this city elected a Democratic Mayor. Your concept of the “market” seems to be off the mark. And exactly how would you “bring things back in line”? What’s your proposal? Specifically? I mean mill rates in Norwalk are already lower than Stamford, Fairfield and Danbury, so, what do you want to see them at? Lower than Darien? Be specific here.

marjoriem January 7, 2014 at 9:32 am

I refer those who talk about “what the market will bear” to today’s article about Norwalk being on good financial footing.

irishgirl January 7, 2014 at 10:48 am

“Are these people worth more yearly because their salaries don’t depend on tax dollars?”
Yes, because that is what people are GIVEN THE CHOICE to spend their dollars on these people who give them a return for their money.
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Teachers, on the other hand, are given more and more money REGARDLESS if they give any “return for the money” (i.e. higher test scores).
*

You may want to check your facts January 7, 2014 at 2:23 pm

@More of the Same

Could you address David’s questions? They seem pretty valid.

marjoriem January 7, 2014 at 10:24 pm

irishgirl, are you saying that people choose to pay unreasonably high prices to see athletes run around a field or dance on a stage because they are worth more than the teachers of our kids?

More of the Same January 8, 2014 at 9:11 am

David, in real markets people pay for what they receive. For example, the exact same house in Silvermine across the street from New Canaan sells for 40% less. WHY? You don’t have to be a genius to figure out why. Accordingly, we should be spending a figure less than what New Canaan does per pupil. Instead we spend more. But I’m not going to argue the intangibles which would favor spending more on education here. I do support that. But Society can not support the growth rates. The data shows it clearly and we need to change in order to survive longer term.
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On a larger scale, by poor policy we have created a fake market for labor which is not sustainable. The worst part is these fake markets create shortages in labor in STEM jobs that the country needs to compete internationally. Until our society realizes this, we’ll be in a race to the bottom.
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Why should you be a doctor when it is easier and more profitable to sue one? Why would you be an engineer when a pre K teacher makes double? Why would you work a construction job when unemployment and disability pay more?
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Policies have consequences. And today’s job market is reflective of bad policies. The good news is you can change policies.
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Bridgeport CT was once the richest city in the country, so yes it can happen to anyone, anywhere.
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More of the Same January 8, 2014 at 9:16 am

David, your comment about mill rates shows your glowing ignorance of how budgets are determined. The mill rate is an afterthought of required spending levels. It doesn’t start with the mill rate and you can’t compare one from any town to the next. Spending per capita is the figure you want to look at. And again, I could care less about that. At our current rates of growing government it will only take about 30 years at current interest rates before the public sector takes 100% of the private sector makes to operate. If interest rates go up that number comes way down. I’m sure you already have yours the way you go on, but for younger families like mine, we do care about this.

David January 8, 2014 at 10:29 am

More of the same: You’ve completely lost the plot now. Pre-K teachers earning more than Engineers? Look, please, everybody knows what to expect in your comments, but you’ve taken a serious dive into the banal.
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Mill rates are the *only* way to relate taxes across localities. I guarantee if Norwalk had higher mill rates you’d be jumping up and down on your soap box screaming about how relevant mill rates are. REALLY sorry that doesn’t fit into your narrative.
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Now, one big difference is the share that non-residential property contributes to the tax base, and I’ll tell you this, Norwalk has absolutely sucked at getting business into this city. Stamfords grand list has grown principally on the backs of big business development. But don’t blame that on teachers and cops, that’s a failure of political leadership to work with the state and attract more business into our city.

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