December 20, 2014

Elyria
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Law enforcement veteran Lorain County’s top paid employee in 2013

Dennis Cavanaugh

Dennis Cavanaugh

ELYRIA – Lorain County Chief Deputy Sheriff Dennis Cavanaugh was the county’s highest paid employee in 2013.

It was the first time the 41-year veteran of law enforcement cracked the list of the county’s top 10 highest paid employees. He earned $145,086.43 last year, according to figures provided by county Auditor Craig Snodgrass’ office.

Cavanaugh’s earnings were so high because he retired at the end of 2012 and was paid out for unused sick and vacation leave. His regular salary was $97,062.36, but that was coupled with $48,024.07 in payouts.

Cavanaugh said he’s been eligible to retire and return to work, an entirely legal, though controversial practice known as “double-dipping,” for years. He said the only reason he did so was because of changes to how the state would be calculating his retirement payouts in the future if he didn’t retire at the end of last year.

“I was told if you didn’t do it here, you’re actually going to lose it,” he said.

Sheriff Phil Stammitti said that changes to state law meant that Cavanaugh would have received a reduced cost-of-living increase in retirement if he hadn’t retired. He also said he didn’t want to lose Cavanaugh’s leadership at either the sheriff’s office or the Lorain County Drug Task Force, which Cavanaugh oversees.

“He’s one of the hardest working, loyalist guys at the sheriff’s office,” Stammitti said.

The second-highest paid employee in the county was Gary Crow, who earned $139,240.20, in salary and retirements payouts during his stint as director of Lorain County Children Services, a job he left last year.

County Engineer Ken Carney was the third-highest paid employee, earning a total salary of $132,869.58. Of that, $99,209 came from being engineer, while he earned another $33,660.58 as the county’s sanitary engineer.

County Administrator Jim Cordes earned $129,156.80 last year, finishing fourth. Cordes had earned $117, 603.20 in 2012, but he said he received a 3 percent raise as well as cashing out unused sick and vacation time, which boosted his earnings.

Cordes said that program is available to most county worker and allows them to get paid for one hour of unused time for every two hours they cash in.

Snodgrass, who became auditor following the retirement of his predecessor, Mark Stewart at the end of 2012, was the county’s fifth-highest paid worker in 2013. He earned a total of $128,859.97, which included his salary and cashing out unused sick and vacation time when he made the transition from employee to elected official.

Amber Fisher, superintendent of the Lorain County Board of Development Disabilities, earned $123,334.81 last year, making her the county’s sixth-highest paid worker.

Charlie Neff, director or the Lorain County Board of Mental Health, was the seventh-highest paid worker last year, earning $122,088.45

Mental Health’s business operations director, Joseph Carver, was the eight-highest paid employee, earning $122,038.73. Neff said Carver’s pay was so high this year because he left Children Services to work for Mental Health and was able to cash out unused sick and vacation time when he did so.

In terms of salary, the county’s 10 elected judges would each finish out as the ninth-highest paid employees of the county with salaries of $121,350, but the county only pays $14,000 of that. Probate Judge James Walther, the county’s presiding judge, said the remaining $107,350 of the judges’ salaries is paid by the Ohio Supreme Court.

If the judges aren’t included, Mary Lou Golski, director of the county’s Department of Job and Family Services is the ninth-highest paid employee. She earned $119,980.20 last year.

Rounding out the top 10 list are county Prosecutor Dennis Will and county Coroner Stephen Evans, who each earned $115,703 last year, making them tied for the 10th highest salaries in county government in 2013.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.

Top 10 highest-paid employees in Lorain County government in 2013*

  1. Dennis Cavanaugh, $145,086.43
  2. Gary Crow, $139,240.20
  3. Ken Carney, $132,869.58
  4. Jim Cordes, $129,156.80
  5. Craig Snodgrass, $128,859.97
  6. Amber Fisher, $123,334.81
  7. Charlie Neff, $122,088.45
  8. Joseph Carver, $122,038.73
  9. Mary Lou Golski, $119,980.20
  10. Dennis Will and Stephen Evans (tie), $115,703

* The 10 judges in the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas have been excluded from this list because the county paid only $14,000 of their $121,350 annual salaries. The remaining $107,350 of their salaries was paid by the Ohio Supreme Court.