Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Vernon mayor’s assistant earns more than average aide in other towns

By Max Bakke
Journal Inquirer
Published: Monday, March 30, 2009 12:43 PM EDT

VERNON — The executive assistant of the mayor's annual salary and pay scale was above average when compared with area towns and should not have been increased, according to a 2007 consultant’s report commissioned by the town’s previous administration.

In a letter to former Town Administrator Christopher Clark, consultant Randi Frank, of the eponymous Wallingford-based management consulting firm, said a survey of salaries in 14 area towns showed that the executive assistant’s position — as well as the Water Pollution Control Authority director — were above the average median salaries of the surveyed municipalities.

The executive assistant and Water Pollution Control Authority director were paid $54,764 and $92,581 in 2007, respectively. The average salary for each position was $53,935 and $82,644; the median salaries were $50,500 and $82,767, the letter states.

The executive assistant’s position came under scrutiny when a Republican majority approved Mayor Jason L. McCoy’s recommendation for then-Deputy Mayor Diane Wheelock, a fellow Republican, to assume the post, replacing outgoing assistant Charlotte Adams.

Council Democrats and Republican Councilwoman Nancy Herold protested the Republican mayor’s recommendation, including an increase in the position’s salary.

McCoy’s offer to Wheelock says she’ll be paid $67,000 annually — the highest salary for the position’s current pay grade.

McCoy disputed that salary today, and said Wheelock’s annual salary was $64,749 — the same figure in the mayor’s proposed 2009-10 budget and the second-highest step on the scale.

Similarly, the proposed water pollution authority director’s salary is $95,359 for the coming year.

McCoy said the positions included in the consultant’s survey were not “apples to apples” comparison with jobs in Vernon, and the duties of the executive assistant go beyond those in other municipalities, which include being on call at nearly all hours of the day and serving as assistant to the council.

The mayor, however, declined to comment on why the compensation was increased.

The towns surveyed include Manchester, South Windsor, and Windsor, along with Avon, Berlin, Cheshire, Mansfield, Newington, North Haven, Plainville, Rocky Hill, Simsbury, West Hartford, and Wethersfield.

Not all towns responded to the survey, and some communities did not have equivalent positions to Vernon, the letter states.

The consultant also recommends that the human resource director’s position be gradually increased from its $73,492 salary in 2007 to reflect mean and median salaries of $92,119 and $87,532, respectively, in the survey towns.

McCoy said the position was increased a step based on the report’s recommendation.

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