Illinois’ top earners rake in overtime

• Assistant medical director at Rockford’s Singer Mental Health Center state’s top-paid employee

By Andrew Thomason
Illinois Statehouse News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois’ top-paid employee isn’t Gov. Pat Quinn (D), and it’s also not Illinois SupremeCourt Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride.

The state’s top earner for 2010 is William Wood, the assistant medical director and staff psychiatrist at the Singer Mental Health Center in Rockford.

He took home $361,439.80, almost half of which came from overtime beyond his base salary of $201,636, according to public records obtained by Illinois Statehouse News.

Wood is joined by Robert Stanley Rupnik, chief investment officer for the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), as some of the state’s highest-paid employees in 2010.

Rupnik made $300,776.90, a 15.96 percent jump from his 2009 salary of $256,187.75, making him the second-highest earner among state employees in 2010.

Like hiring a physician to work at the University of Illinois to teach neurosurgery, you need a professional that is qualified and entirely competent,” said Dave Urbanek, spokesman for the teachers’ retirement system.

While the U.S. Department of Labor doesn’t keep wage information on Rupnik’s specific type of job, it does indicate that a general financial manager’s average salary is between $148,920 and $168,640.

We need sound investment of money given to us by our members and state,” Urbanek said. “To do that, we need professionals that normally would be working on Wall Street.”

At the same time as Rupnik was getting a $44,589.15 raise in 2010, the state’s largest retirement system saw its funded liability — how much the system has promised to pay current and future retirees, minus the amount of money and assets available to pay those pensions — decrease from 52.1 percent to 48.4 percent, or about $4.9 billion.

In fact, during fiscal 2009, which ran from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010, the retirement fund investments lost $8.69 billion, or 26 percent, according to the TRS’s annual report.

Urbanek said the salary increase came from a 13-member board of trustees that sets Rupnik’s salary annually. Calls to various board members were not returned.

Seven doctors employed by the Illinois Department of Human Services round off the list of the top 10 highest-paid state employees in 2010, according to state comptroller records.

Wood, in addition to being the highest paid, is also the longest serving employee of the top 10 high earners, having been working at human services since 1988.

The other top-paid physicians averaged $261,889.88 in pay for 2010, at least $60,000 of which per doctor was earned above their base pay. State-employed physicians’ pay is calculated on a monthly salary.

A typical psychiatrist employed by a state government makes $196,020, or $5,616 less than the base salary for Illinois’ top psychiatrist, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics.

There are just a lot of factors of why these are eight of the top 10 earners in the state of Illinois. … They’re doctors; doctors do have a high salary wherever you go,” said Januari Smith, spokesman for the state Department of Human Services. “No. 2, they are members of the union, so they get all the pay increases all union (employees) get.”

All of the doctors are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 union and are entitled to the raises in the union’s contract with the state, Smith said.

Since the doctors belong to AFSCME and are employed under a collective-bargaining agreement signed in 2008 by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich(D), they must be paid overtime.

The contract states: “Employees who are authorized and do work in excess of their normal work week in any one scheduled period shall receive overtime credit for such hours.”

That’s a sharp contrast to private-sector doctors in Illinois and public-sector doctors in surrounding states. A survey of hospitals in major metropolitan areas throughout Illinois revealed that they do not have unionized doctors. Spokesmen for the various hospitals said their salaried doctors generally don’t receive overtime, but they can pick up additional shifts.

Neighboring states are a mixed bag when it comes to state-employed doctors and unions.

In Wisconsin, state doctors not in managerial or supervisory roles belong to the Wisconsin Physicians and Dentist Association, a public-sector union. In Iowa, however, state physicians do not belong to public-sector unions.

Anders Lindall, a spokesman for AFSCME in Illinois, countered that it’s not completely unheard of for doctors to unionize, and that doctors working for the state deserve the benefits of being in a union as much as any other state worker.

While the doctors received a 2 percent pay increase in July under the current union contract, workers in 14 other state agencies were denied the same raise, because Quinn said the state doesn’t have enough money to fund the pay hikes.

The top doctors also are set to get an additional 2 percent raise in February. That deal came through an agreement Quinn signed with AFSCME shortly before the November election that deferred a 4 percent pay hike set for July of this year.

Psychiatrist Howard Paul, who recently moved to Janesville, Wis., started his job while living in Illinois, said Smith. Illinois and Wisconsin have an agreement where residents pay income taxes in the state they work in, so Paul’s income taxes go into Illinois’ coffers. Paul was one of the 1,018 out-of-state residents who collected a check from the comptroller’s office in 2010.

There is little the state can do in a situation like Paul’s, where the person was originally an Illinois resident but later moved out of state, as long as the person can perform their job, Smith said. However, an agency cannot hire a non-Illinois resident when a qualified Illinois resident is available. This rule came into place following an executive order issued by then-Gov. Jim Thompson (R) in 1979.

Paul was one of the three people who lived out of state on the list of 590 state workers who made more in 2010 than Quinn’s salary of $174,013.26.

From the Sept. 7-13, 2011, issue

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