An obscure county committee made the decision months ago, but the public is just now learning as a result of a front-page feature in today's Indianapolis Star that Sheriff Frank Anderson, already one of the highest paid public officials in the country, got a $50,000 boost in pay this year on top of the more than $360,000 he earned last year. That places his salary above that of President Bush, who earns $400,000 annually. The Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy explains:
Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson, who made more than $360,000 last year, was quietly handed a $50,000 boost to his salary this year.
Anderson holds the most lucrative public job in the state because Indiana laws let him keep some of the money his deputies collect in overdue taxes -- nearly $268,000 in 2005. That money comes on top of a salary that had been about
$100,000 a year.
That means Anderson made more than three times as much as Gov. Mitch Daniels and nearly as much as the official salary of the president of the United States.
Anderson's contract, which local officials must approve on an annual basis, was changed to add the $50,000 to his salary by a five-member panel that includes one elected official. In a 19-minute meeting the Friday before New Year's Eve, the sheriff's lawyers persuaded the three board members present to boost Anderson's salary by $50,000 to compensate him for the $50,000 in tax revenue fees he deposits annually into the county general fund, in accordance with state and county laws.
Anderson's attorney said converting the money to salary improves his tax situation and his pension. Pensions are based only on salary, not on outside income such as the tax fees. The change had such a low profile that one member of the board says he did not understand its implications when he voted for it.
Mayor Bart Peterson, who is spearheading the merger of the sheriff's department with the Indianapolis Police Department, said he was unaware of the salary boost until Thursday, when he learned about it from an Indianapolis Star reporter.
It is always funny to watch politicians who like to take credit for everything good happening in their communities to suddenly head for the hills and plead ignorance when it comes to bad news. Both Mayor Peterson and Paul Rickets, a Republican member of the Administrative Board which approved Anderson's contract, claimed not to know anything about Anderson's salary adjustment. Their denials are simply not credible.
As the city has had to make cuts in law enforcement and seek ways to eke out additional savings through the merger of the police and sheriff departments, it is simply unconscionable to think anyone would believe Sheriff Anderson is entitled to any increase in pay, let alone a $50,000 raise. You know something isn't right when the first thing your county sheriff does after he is elected to office is to go out and purchase a million-dollar home on Geist Lake.
The problem lies in a ridicuolous state law which permits county sheriffs to pocket a percentage of the delinquent tax collections. Sheriffs negotiate with their respective counties their salaries upon assuming office, bargaining over just how much the county will pay them in salary in exchange for giving up a portion of the tax collection fees the law entitles them to receive. It's time to repeal this law.