Related Link
UNION CITY — Every full-time Union City firefighter earned more than $100,000 last year and the Fire Department accounted for nearly half of all city employees earning six figures, according to city data.

Citywide, former police Chief Randy Ulibarri made the most money in 2006 with $220,256, followed by City Manager Larry Cheeves with $212,730. Rounding out the top five were Battalion Chief Ronald Oatis, $196,040; Battalion Chief Michael Brown, $191,721;

and police Capt. Greg Stewart, $189,747.

The Argus requested Union City's salary figures for calendar year 2006 last month after the California Supreme Court ruled that governments must reveal what they pay employees.

Of about 305 full-time city employees, 98 earned more than

$100,000 last year, said Rich Digre, who oversees the city's budget. The Fire Department accounted for 42 six-figure earners, compared with 35 for the Police Department.

Eight of Union City's top 10 earners last year were public safety employees.

The Fire Department, which is authorized to have 49 firefighters, amassed more than $1.3 million in overtime. That was nearly double the overtime expense of the police department, whose roughly 80 sworn officers tallied $775,438.

Firefighters accounted for 28 of the city's top 30 overtime earners. Topping the list were Oatis with $64,806 in overtime and fire Capt. John Havenhill with $58,603.

Michael Mahaney tallied the mostovertime among police officers. His total of $32,778 placed him 23rd among city employees.

Fire Department overtime was higher than usual last year, Digre said, because there were five vacancies, forcing additional overtime to staff stations and train recruits.

For the fiscal year that ended in June, the department went $200,000 over its $9.5 million budget, Digre said.

The firefighters union is still negotiating for a contract after its last deal expired July 1. It's the only city union without a contract.

When Union City approved restoring its Fire Department in 1999, then-City Manager Mark Lewis estimated the department would cost only $5.2 million that fiscal year.

"I think that was an under-projection," Cheeves said. Overall, he said, city salaries are roughly in the middle of the pack when compared to a benchmark list of eight Bay Area cities.

"We're certainly not on the top of very many lists," he said.

Compared to Fremont, which has roughly triple its population, Union City spent less per resident on public employee salaries. According to salary reports from both cities, Union City spent $25.9 million compared to Fremont's $86.9 million.

Across the board, Union City's top brass made about $20,000 less than their Fremont counterparts, without taking into account the rates both cities pay to fund their retirement packages.

The Police Department, which is about a third the size of Fremont's, spent about $9.5 million on salaries, compared with $27.7 million in Fremont.

The Fire Department spent a little less than $6 million on salaries, compared with $17.3 million in Fremont.

For sworn Union City police officers who made at least $70,000 in base salary last year, the average salary was $105,250 and the average overtime earnings was $8,204. Their counterparts in Fremont averaged $124,226 in total salary and $12,760 in overtime.

For Union City firefighters who made at least $70,000 in base salary last year, the average salary was

$138,550 and the average overtime earning was $31,120. In Fremont,

average pay for firefighters was

$137,404, and average overtime pay was $29,242.

With the vacant Union City Fire Department positions now filled, Cheeves said he expected firefighters to log less overtime this year.

Two of the more surprising names among Union City's top earners were Public Works Superintendents Phil Sachs and Mike Klinkner. Sachs received $184,227, of which more than $73,000 was in deferred compensation, and Klinkner received $162,144, of which $74,000 was in deferred compensation. 

Both men retired at the end of 2006, and were due accrued vacation time and other accruals, which in Sachs' case amounted to about 1,500 hours, Digre said.

Former police Chief Ulibarri's 2006 earnings also were inflated by cashing out accrued time coinciding with his retirement last December.

Unused vacation days do not contribute to their pension benefits, Digre said. To prevent similar retirement cash-outs, the city this year capped employee vacation accruals.

Staff writer Matthew Artz covers Fremont for The Argus. He can be reached at 510-353-7002 or martz@bayareanewsgroup.com.