Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Fallout From Disclosure of Sheriff Anderson's $50,000 Salary Boost

Lots of news to report in the aftermath of the Star's disclosure that Sheriff Frank Anderson received a $50,000 pay raise after he earned more than $360,000 last year. Lawrence Township Assessor Paul Rickets, a member of the county's Administrative Board, got bounced from the Board the same day the Star reported that he would not have supported the sheriff's pay raise if he had understood the contract he and other Board members approved last December. City-County Council President Monroe Gray sent Rickets a letter telling him that his term had expired, and that his services would no longer be needed.

House Speaker Brian Bosma says it may be time to review the state law governing sheriff's pay, such as "a cap so it doesn't get out of line." Bosma tells the Star he was surprised at the numbers he read in the paper. Really? I recall a friend of mine in Illinois politics telling me about 20 years ago that the highest paid elected official in the country was the Marion Co. Sheriff who was then earning in excess of $200,000. Speaker Bosma is good friends with former Lawrence Mayor Tom Schneider, who badly wanted the office because of the lucrative pay. I have a hard time believing Bosma was surprised at all by the amount Anderson earns.

Sheriff Anderson's Republican opponent, Steve Davis, has finally found an issue. He's promising to cap his salary at $115,000 and return the sheriff's tax collection money to pay deputy's salaries. "He's getting free labor to collect those taxes," Davis tells the Star, "and he pockets the excess."

Meanwhile, the Star's editors take the position that there is no justification for Sheriff Anderson's outrageous salary. The Star writes:

Crime is on the rise. Thousands of inmates are released early because of overcrowding at the jail. Too few deputies are patrolling the streets, but Marion County doesn't have enough money to add more officers.

Yet, amid all of this, Sheriff Frank Anderson -- who made more than $360,000 last year -- was handed a $50,000 raise. At least one member of an administrative board that approved the pay hike now claims he didn't understand what he was doing.

Go ahead and scream if you're a Marion County taxpayer. You deserve it.
The Star attacks the Administrative Board for being "asleep while managing the taxpayers' checkbook." It dismisses Anderson's attorney's claim that he had been underpaid. "[T]there is no justification for paying the Marion County sheriff nearly the same compensation as the president of the United States," it writes. "Legislators need to wake up long enough to change the law that rewards sheriffs for collecting back taxes. The money belongs to the public, not its servants."

And finally, Matt Tully has a strong view about Anderson's pay as well:

As with so much in government, the more I thought and learned about Anderson's pay, the more annoyed I got.

This is a sheriff, after all, who complained for years about not having enough deputies on the street. But the system is rigged so that sheriffs -- not just Anderson -- make serious cash while too few police officers walk the beat.

And then there was the decision by a county board to grant Anderson a $50,000 base salary boost last year, amid talk that Anderson's tax commissions would drop this year.

For his part, Anderson says he works hard and points out that paycheck parameters are made at the Indiana Statehouse.

"I hope (residents) realize the compensation I got was put together by the representatives of the people -- the legislators," Anderson said.

He's right. This cash is legally and rightfully his.

But he is making one crucial mistake: He is defending his oversized pay.

He should be embarrassed. But he isn't.

"The people agreed and said that the compensation should be what it is," he said. "I haven't asked for any more than that."

But just how much is that?

Consider this: Anderson makes more than the mayor, the governor, the police chief and the average Hoosier family. Combined.

This is an issue which really resonates with voters. Anderson's opponent, Steve Davis, could defeat Anderson on this issue alone if he played his cards rights. But what do you want to bet that he won't? I'm betting he doesn't raise enough campaign funds to get on-the-air with a message.


Anonymous said...

You might find it instructive to find out how much Township Constables make. They too work on a percentage deal mandated by the Legislature. Very, very lucrative !

Gary R. Welsh said...

They earn in excess of a $100 grand a year in Marion Co. As I understand it, their salary is based on the fees they collect for serving legal notices. They pay their workers (usually family members) out of this amount, unlike the sheriff who gets to pocket money for the work of sheriff's deputies we pay to employ.

Anonymous said...

When the pay structure for sheriff and township constable was developed, was the "intent" for these elected officials to funnel at least part of these monies back to their respective political parties (like the BMV back in the good old days)?

Gary R. Welsh said...

I think the contributions are pretty much expected if they want slated by the party for the position.