City Hall

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon Blasts Councilman Sal DiCiccio for Twisting Truth About Employee Pay

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon just posted a blog titled, "The Truth ... For A Change."

In it, Gordon blasts DiCiccio for his creative (that is, false) interpretation of budget figures to propel the idea that the average city worker gets $100,000.

[Of course, it would be nice if Gordon applied that mantra to himself and took a moment to answer legit questions about how he conducts business in the Mayor's Office. Instead, weeks have turned into months and New Times' questions of Gordon remain unanswered, information goes undisclosed.]

And while the hypocrisy throughout is too obvious to ignore, the message here trumps the messenger.

Gordon calls out DiCiccio as one of the "self-serving naysayers" who want to tear down the city "either to fatten their wallets or to make a grab for higher office."

DiCiccio has been steadily beating the "employees are averaging $100,000" drum, but he's a little off key.

Sure, you can take Phoenix's total employee costs ($1,526,383,000) and divide it by the number of employees on the books (15,622) and come up with an average cost per employee ($97,707.27).

He might be mathematically right, but doesn't make it clear that the $1.5 billion includes everything the city has to pay for that employee, such as state and federal taxes, unemployment, medical and dental, vacation, tool allowances.

It is fair to have a conversation, debate about the other-than-salary benefits, but it is disingenuous to make it seem like an entry-level worker in public works or the water department is earning $100,000 a year -- or costing the city that much.

And, most importantly, DiCiccio doesn't point out in his calculations that those making top dollar at the city are going to skew the figures for the average worker bees. For example, City Manager David Cavazos' $236,997.85 annual salary, for example, is certainly going to increase the average salary for an employee who gets an average of $43,345 a year (before taxes).

All the public hears from DiCiccio is that city workers are averaging $100,000.

As Gordon points out in his blog, only about 3 percent of Phoenix employees -- the top managers -- actually take home a salary of more than $100,000.

Police officers and fireighters are the next highest paid. The average cop in Phoenix makes $70,437 annually. For a firefighter, it's $72,132. The average pay for police supervisors is $86,257 a year.

Supervisors from various departments earn an average of $68,000 per year.

"And the rest of the nearly 15,000 employees of our City?" Gordon writes. "That group --  more 7,000 positions, or about half our total head count -- earns an average salary of $43,345 a year. Is that a healthy salary? In these times, yes. But it isn't $100,000 a year. In fact, it isn't even close."

Gordon also blasts DiCiccio for being a classic double-dipper -- DiCiccio started collecting a $7,477 annual pension (according to a nifty Arizona Republic database) in 2003 when he "retired" from the City Council.

So, Gordon, who helped usher DiCiccio back onto the City Council, is dialing up the criticism.

"Frankly, if I used math like that, I could start referring to Councilman DiCiccio as the "$100,000-a-year Councilman," by counting not just his $61,600 annual salary from Council and his $7,477 "double dip" pension from his last Council term, but every other benefit and expense that accrues to his employment. I wouldn't do that, of course. Because, while it might be semantically accurate -- and kind of funny -- it's not what I consider to be the truth, in context."

And, in case you weren't sure, Gordon says he's telling the truth. He says his message is "not the spin of a politician seeking elected office. As you likely know, I'm termed out in January 2012, so I'm not hamstrung by the need to spin."

(Um, refreshing. And sad that it takes lame-duck status before politicians are willing to speak freely and honestly about certain matters. Even that doesn't prompt Gordon to talk freely about his girlfriend's role with the city.)

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo