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Back pay lifted city’s payroll 3 percent in ’10

Individual payments averaged about $28,000

By Andrew Ryan
Globe Staff / February 17, 2011

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Boston’s annual payroll jumped more than 3 percent in 2010, driven up, city officials said yesterday, by hefty retroactive checks for police and fire personnel, as a result of contract settlements and court awards that spanned several years.

Firefighters alone took home $48.2 million in back pay. A union official said they were owed the money because of a contentious contract dispute that remained unresolved until last summer.

Individual payouts averaged roughly $28,000, with the largest retroactive check adding up to $60,485 for Deputy Chief Robert J. Calobrisi, whose earnings totaled $229,087 in 2010.

Police also won 16 years of back pay totaling $18.7 million, following a court decision and a separate legal settlement. It was difficult to pinpoint the high mark for police retroactive pay because it stemmed from two different cases. But some checks totaled more than $48,000.

“This year there were some outside decisions that increased our personnel costs more than we would like,’’ said Meredith Weenick, the city’s acting director of administration and finance. “But we will continue to push the envelope of reform to make more progress in the future for the taxpayers.’’

Despite layoffs and attrition that reduced the workforce by the equivalent of 94 full-time employees in 2010, Boston’s payroll, released in response to a public records request by the Globe, grew by 3.3 percent last year to $1.33 billion.

That uptick can be blamed, Weenick reiterated, on the nearly $67 million the city paid in police and fire settlements. Without the back pay, the payroll would have dropped from 2009, she said.

The city’s top earner in 2010 was once again Carol R. Johnson, superintendent of schools, who was paid $323,222, including a $56,472 pensionlike payment, officials said. The records also show that 169 people, identified as teachers in the School Department, took home more than $100,000.

After Johnson, the next top earners were Deputy Fire Chief Peter A. Laizza, who garnered a total of $271,783 including back pay, and police Captain Patrick J. Crossen, whose $261,784 in earnings included $75,128 in overtime.

Significantly further down the list, Mayor Thomas M. Menino was paid $172,255. Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis and Fire Commissioner Roderick J. Fraser Jr. each made $171,467. And Amy E. Ryan, president of the Boston Public Library, took home $213,562. That included a $40,000 bonus, covering two years and negotiated as part of her contract.

A year ago, the city touted a $15 million reduction in overtime for 2009, including an $11 million drop in the Police Department. But the legal settlements make it difficult to accurately compare overtime spending for 2009 and 2010, an official said.

On the police side, three earners made more than $100,000 in overtime during 2010. Sergeant Detective Marc Sullivan topped the list with $107,749 in overtime for a total compensation of $225,036. He was followed by Detective Paul A. Painten, who took home $106,078 in overtime, for a total of $212,981, and Sergeant Detective John J. Fitzgerald, who made $100,120 in overtime for a total salary of $221,099.

In the Fire Department, the retroactive checks included wages dating to 2006 because a contract standoff meant that firefighters’ pay remained flat while other unions increased, said Richard Paris, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 718.

“A gallon of milk went up. A gallon of gas went up. Kids tuition went up,’’ Paris said. “But firefighters pay did not go up.’’

Local 718 members also retroactively paid for higher health insurance costs, which raised premiums by 50 percent for two years, Paris said. Like other unions, the city now covers just 85 percent of premiums, instead of 90 percent.

The larger of two police settlements came in August, when the city agreed to pay $16.5 million to patrolmen to settle a 16-year-old labor dispute over protective services at public housing. The award covers a nine-year period ending in 2003 in which members of the now defunct Boston Municipal Police Department were assigned to properties owned by the Boston Housing Authority. The state Division of Labor ruled that work there legally belonged to the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association.

A second unrelated award forced the city to recalculate police overtime payments from 2002 to 2009 and payout about $2.2 million.

A spokesman for the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association could not be reached yesterday for comment.

Matt Carroll of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Andrew Ryan can be reached at acryan@globe.com.