Editor’s note: A previous version of this story had the salaries of the Fairfield and New Canaan superintendents swapped.
WESTPORT — Police and school officials dominate the top 10 spots on the list of highest-paid town employees for 2017, recently released data from town hall and the schools’ central office show.
Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer topped the list with $288,562 in salary, plus a $2,750 annuity. Her salary exceeds the salaries of the Darien, Fairfield, and New Canaan superintendents of schools, who make $269,496, $269,285, and $262,248 respectively.
Board of Education Chairman Michael Gordon defended the high pay of top-earning school employees.
“Westport has one of the top school districts in the country, and we are good at both attracting and retaining tremendous talent at all levels,” Gordon said. “We view retention as a combination of the quality of the work, the culture of the organization, and salary.”
Besides the superintendent, Director of School Business Operations Elio Longo with $210,709, Staples High School Principal James D’Amico with $192,762, Director of Elementary Education Julie Droller with $192,762 and Director of Human Resources John Bayers with $187,000 representing the educators, taking the fourth, seventh, eighth and ninth spots on the list.
The top paid employee of the Westport police department, Cpl. Howard Simpson placed second on the overall list with gross wages of $260,097 compiled from his base salary of $88,531, in addition to $81,948 in overtime, $17,723 for holidays, stipend and differential pay for working the overnight shift, for example, and $17,723 taken home for outside duty work.
Of the four police department employees included on the top 10 list, the lowest earning person, Police Sgt. David Librandi, took home $204,299 in gross wages last year.
Westport police Chief Foti Koskinas said officers in town can earn more than their base salary by fulfilling education, physical fitness and attendance maximum standards, in addition to holiday and overtime pay.
“When you add all these things up you see an officer’s base pay is not just the base pay that was advertised,” Koskinas said.
Koskinas said officers make overtime pay to fulfill staff shortages resulting from a decline in the number of town’s police officers over the last 10 to 12 years. More, officers can volunteer to work for outside construction companies or other entities in town who need security assistance. For example, Temple Israel hires police officers for some of its events, as does Staples High School for some sports games and Aquarion Water Company for its construction sites.
Outside duty work is paid by the hiring entity, unlike overtime pay which comes from the town’s budget.
“It would be more of a curiosity if every officer here was making that money, but it’s just a few people who use all of their free time to work overtime to make that money,” Koskinas said, “This is no different than anyone else who holds more than one job to make ends meet.”
The final person rounding out the top 10 list was Matthew Wille, a firefighter with a base pay of $77,012 and total salary of $186,898.