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Citizens for Limited Taxation

School officials, police at top of town's salary list
Private details boost officers' total salaries
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Lisa Kocian, Globe Staff The Boston Globe West
It pays to be a police officer in Framingham -- if you're willing to work extra hours.

Of the 25 highest-paid town employees last year, 16 wore a badge.  Most were pushed to the top of the list by private details, extra shifts paid for by businesses that pay $38 per hour.

Police Chief Steven Carl said officers are "grossly underpaid," and details can be a much-needed "equalizer."

"When done properly and professionally," he sid, "it's a benefit to the community."

Other findings of a Globe West review of gross wages for 2004 for 2,900 town and school employees included:

Thirty-two people earned more than $100,000, including 20 from the Police Department and seven from the schools.

Superintendent of Schools Christopher Martes was the highest-paid employees at $175,093.

The highest-paid teacher was George Perrone, a music teacher at Framingham High School, who made $85,797.  His position is largely administrative.  He teaches two classes and oversees the Fine Arts Department, according to Martes.

Former Framingham High School principal Ralph Olsen made $161,793, putting him number two on the list, but much of that was derived from vacation and sick time buyback because he left the department, Martes said.

While Carl made $135,597 and was the fourth-highest-paid town employee, rank-and-file police officers were not far behind.

The highest-paid officer was John Vizakis, who made $126,948.  With a base pay of $43,392, much of his earnings were derived from detail shifts.  He was the sixth-highest-paid town employee.

Carl said it is against department policy for officers, other than the department spokesman, to talk to the media.

Police officers work details at road construction sites, at stores, and at bars.

Carl said he watches details closely.  Last year, he sent a memo to officers telling them that the companies that hire them had been complaining about them "reporting to details late, leaving early, and taking extended breaks."

Also, he wrote, there were allegations that officers were "sleeping, sitting in vehicles, not attending to traffic issues" while on details.  As a result, he said, he would begin "impromptu inspections" by superior officers.

Carl estimated that 90 percent of his officers regularly work details and that the vast majority do a good job and don't complain.

The department aggressively monitors sick time and job performance to make sure detail work does not impede their regular duties, he said.

Still, there might be room for changes, he said.  About a quarter of the traffic details, Carl said, probably do not require police and could be adequately done with flagmen, the civilian traffic directors used in other states.

Only police should direct traffic, replied James Machado, director of operations for the Massachusetts Police Association.  The police chief in each community determines where details are needed, he said, based on whether there is a public safety hazard.

Machado emphasized that detail pay does not come out of the pockets of taxpayers but from companies.  He said that communities also receive a surcharge payment from the companies, so details actually make communities money.

The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University released a study last year on details that found "no strong statistical relationship between using police details and decreasing accident rates," said Douglas Giuffre, an economist and an author of the study.

He also said taxpayers still pay for details, just in a different way.  Companies, such as utilities, pass along the cost of police details to their customers, Giuffre said.

Carl said some officers complain about the way details are assigned and acknowledged that some have complained about Officer Alan Dubeshter receiving so much detail work.  Dubeshter is the officer in charge of assigning details.  Carl defended Dubeshter as a hardworking officer.

"What you have here is just jealousy," Carl said.  "Jealousy has killed more cops than bullets.  It's out of control.  Everybody is worrying about what everybody else is making.  These guys could all be making that amount of money, but they don't want to. . . . I look at these guys who whine and complain as ingrates."

Dubeshter, who was the eighth-highest-paid town employee, with earnings of $123,219, said he made about $45,000 from details.  He defended his pay, saying he simply worked a lot.

"Last year, I worked a lot of details because I got engaged and got married, and me and my wife had to pay for the wedding ourselves," he said in a telephone interview he granted despite the department's policy on speaking to reporters.

"The opportunity to work overtime is available to every single officer in this department.  Anybody here could have worked as hard as I did and made as much as I did."

He has a flexible schedule that allows him to take compensatory time to work details, so it is not unusual for him to work from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. in some combination of detail work and regular duties, he said.

Dubeshter, who has been with the department about 20 years, said he regularly works weekends and holidays as well.  He often has more detail assignments than he has officers willing to work, so he will frequently take those shifts himself, he said.

Details appeared also to play a role in the lower pay received by women officers.

The dozen women officers in the department are crowded toward the bottom of the salary ranking.  The highest-paid woman in the department was Officer Kathryn Esposito, who received $75,278. She was the 68th-highest-paid person in the department.

Carl said that, with officers' base salary controlled by contract, the difference may be that "they don't work as many details."

"Women officers balance their lives a little better," he said.

"In most marriages, the women are more concerned with keeping the family together and making sure everything at home is running correctly, and that's where they put their efforts when they're off."

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