Fat cats: Charlottesville City Government’s outrageous salary games

| January 23, 2012 | 10 Comments

It was with great fanfare that Charlottesville’s $95,000+ per year spokesman, Ric Barrick, announced the selection of Chris J. Engel as city’s new Director of Economic Development (DED) in a January 12 news release:

The City of Charlottesville is proud to announce the appointment of Chris J. Engel as the next Economic Development Director for the City…Engel is currently the Assistant Economic Development Director for Charlottesville and has been employed by the City since 2005.  His first day in the new position will be February 1st.

Next, Engel’s stellar qualifications were trumpeted by Charlottesville’s educationally under-qualified City Manager, Maurice Jones (himself the beneficiary of a $170,000+ public salary):

“During his time with the City, Chris has proven himself to be an effective leader in our organization and in the community,” said Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones.  “He has the credentials, the skills and the vision to build off of the great success we have had in economic development during the last decade.”

But what of Charlottesville’s long-time Director of Economic Development, Aubrey Watts (recipient of a $160,000+ public salary)?

The release explains that he has chosen to relinquish his official Economic Development title in order to lighten his workload:

The announcement follows the decision by the current director, Aubrey Watts, to concentrate on his duties as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer as well as to manage the transition of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing. [sic]

Conspicuously absent from Barrick’s missive was any reference to compensation. Watts, in assuming temporary responsibility for shepherding a leadership transition in the city’s Housing Authority, has shed what was a permanent responsibility as the city’s Director of Economic Development.

Therefore, a downward salary adjustment is anticipated, right?

Wrong.

A January 12 request to Barrick for information on the adjusted salaries of both Engel and Watts was only partially answered on January 19:

From: “Barrick, Ric” <BARRICK@charlottesville.org>
Date: January 19, 2012 05:42:39 PM EST
To: ‘Schilling Show’
Cc: “Brown, Craig” <Brownc@charlottesville.org>
Subject: RE: Director of Economic Development Chosen for Charlottesville

Rob

The paperwork for that promotion has not been received into Human Resources as of yet.  As soon as it is gets in I will send you a note as to the results.  As for the second question, Mr. Watts’ current salary is $160,929.60 but that did not change with this reassignment of responsibilities.

Ric

Omitted from Barrick’s initial response was requested information on Mr. Engel, currently employed as Charlottesville’s Assistant Director of Economic Development. The threat of a FOIA request prompted the city spokesman finally to answer eight days after the information was requisitioned:

From: “Barrick, Ric” <BARRICK@charlottesville.org>
Date: January 20, 2012 04:20:04 PM EST
To: ‘Schilling Show’
Cc: “Brown, Craig” <Brownc@charlottesville.org>
Subject: RE: FOIA Request Chris Engle’s New Salary Re: Director of Economic Development Chosen for Charlottesville

Rob

Chris’ base salary in his new position beginning February 1st will be $115,000 but that will change a bit once it is entered into the payroll system by HR and his hourly is figured out and applied in the system.  That has not been done yet as they just today received his paperwork.  His current salary is $86,028.80.

Ric

Let’s do the math:

Current DED Aubrey Watts has seen his duties decrease by a value $115,000 per year (the amount soon being paid to Engel in order for him to assume Watts’ position), and yet, Watts will continue to receive $160,929.60 annually.

Assistant DED Chris Engel will see his already inflated yearly paycheck of $86,028.80 balloon by $28,971.20 (or 34 percent) to $115,000.

The average Charlottesville household, according to the 2010 United States Census, is earning just $39,030 per year (2009 figure).

How does that household income compare to the base salaries (excluding benefits) of select, highly compensated Charlottesville government “fat cats”?

C-ville "Fat Cat" Salaries vs. Median C-ville Household Income ($39,030)

Employee NameEmployee PositionEmployee Salary
(excludes benefits)
% of Avg. C-ville Household Income
Kristel RiddervoldEnvironmental Administrator$81,494209%
Jennifer LuchardPurchasing and Materials Mgr.$82,742212%
Roosevelt BarbourCity Assessor$88,067226%
Richard HarrisDeputy City Attorney$93,787240%
Ric BarrickCommunications Dir.$95,202244%
Bill WattersonTransit Mgr.$105,400269%
Chris EngelEconomic Development Dir.$115,000295%
Brian DalyParks & Recreation Dir.$127,504327%
Lauren HildebrandPublic Utilities Mgr.$134,493345%
Bernard WrayFinance Dir.$139,592353%
Gary O'ConnellFormer City Manager (ret.)$145,000 (est.)372%
Aubrey WattsCOO, CFO$160,930412%
Maurice JonesCity Manager$170,019436%
Life is hard for everyday Charlottesville citizens who continue to struggle with fueling their cars and feeding their families, while at the same time contending with layoffs, downsizings, salary reductions, and government threats of increased taxes.

Yet, life is easy for Charlottesville’s elite ruling class. With seemingly no oversight, these self-perpetuating white-collar government employees continue to feather their own nests while enriching themselves beyond measure—all at the expense of chronically overburdened and hopelessly unrepresented Charlottesville taxpayers.

About the Author:

Rob Schilling is founder of The Schilling Show Blog and News; host of WINA's The Schilling Show, heard weekdays from noon to 2 PM; husband; father; and community watchdog.
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10 Comments on "Fat cats: Charlottesville City Government’s outrageous salary games"

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  1. Tough times in Charlottesville? Not for the city's elite government Ruling Class!

    Read our exclusive exposé of how government employees get (and stay) rich off the backs of taxpayers: http://wp.me/p1x2fK-1CG.

  2. are they hiring? (haha)

  3. Yes, but only Democrats!

  4. quinn says:

    City is only hiring indiivduals who know how to doing the following:
    1. Proper use of prayer rug
    2. Willing to bend a knee
    3. Willing to do the bidding of city counsel.
    4. No back bone
    Beware taxes hike is on the way, so we can contunie to have over pay city management…….
    Good Bye George…..

  5. Tim Hulsey says:

    I guess we can always fake it till we make it ….

  6. Mike says:

    Rob, is there some way we could get the fat cats to promise to not shop online and keep all of their gigantic salaries circulating in Charlottesville? -Just a dumb question from a local merchant.

  7. quinn says:

    Good Luck Mike.
    Once the state gets their way, internet sales will be taxed and then the city will have another way to collect money and stick it to us.

  8. Hola says:

    I assume if the City went to a town status then a lot of these salaries would be cut, correct? Galvin suggested just that in an e-mail floasting around. How much revenue would be picked up, including the salary cut’s if we did become a town instead of a city. Just wondering…

  9. quinn says:

    the problem is not going to town status , the problem is knowing how much money any of these individuals made. someone who just retired from a state agency there has a lot of perks that are not in writing, freebies. Like company car, company c-phone, company laptop, company paying for you internet access etc…
    It upper management salary is reduced 10% = approx 155,000 dollars saving…. This is still not counting the retirement, health care cost, life insurance cost ( which the norm is usually 5 times present salary) which is approx 28% added onto their salary. that is not included. However due to the way state law is written for government employees is to reduce someone salary need to be demotion (if person screw up),laid-off,or involuntary demotion to keep on job if position is done away with. However this only happens for the front line employees and managers. The staff and managers that are in the middle of the pack and higher usually don’t get hit in this type of process. However if the city goes back to town status, they don’t need 900+ employees and manager. A lot of services currently being offered would be combined with the county… Especially fire and police, social services…. I don’t think city council has the balls to follow through with going back to town status…
    On what would T.J. say!

  10. crankyolecranky says:

    How about an update on these figures. Wonder what’s changed in 2 years.

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