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Babylon OKs $36,000 raises for town attorney, comptroller, staff chief

Babylon Town hall in Lindenhurst, July 9, 2017.

Babylon Town hall in Lindenhurst, July 9, 2017. Credit: Steve Pfost

The Babylon Town Board authorized $36,000 raises for three top officials in a 5-0 vote with no discussion at a meeting earlier this month.

The 33 percent raises for Chief of Staff Ron Kluesener, Town Attorney Joseph Wilson and Town Comptroller Victoria Marotta increase their base salaries from $109,084 to $145,000, according to the Jan. 2 resolution granting the pay hikes.

The three also receive annual stipends ranging from $2,000 to $8,500 for additional roles as solid waste administrator, sanitation commission chairman and director of community development, respectively.

“The town could not do what it does to serve its residents without the ability to attract and retain top-level talent for these positions,” Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer wrote in an email Friday.

Three comptrollers, four town attorneys and one chief of staff listed in Newsday’s database of Long Island municipal payrolls had salaries greater than $145,000 in 2016.

The Babylon raises were among $188,000 in pay increases for nonunion employees that the board authorized at its first meeting of the year.

The board did not directly vote on the raises. Instead, it passed a resolution titled “Amending the Administrative Salary Plan.” The plan consists of two tables, the first with about 100 rows listing a salary “level” and “step” attached to different nonunion job titles.

To determine the salary connected to each level and step, a resident must cross-reference them with a second table that lists 340 different salaries. To identify a raise, a resident must compare those salaries to the tables in the town board’s previous administrative salary plan.

The salary plan does not list employees by name. To identify who is receiving the raises, a resident must submit a freedom of information request to the town, spokesman Kevin Bonner said.

“It’s just simply not transparent,” said Amityville Trustee Nick LaLota, a frequent Schaffer critic, who was also critical of the timing of the raises. “Neither the public nor the press really has the opportunity to understand how taxpayer money is being spent.”

Schaffer said he is “proud of our fiscal responsibility and transparency.”

Tim Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center for Public Policy, said public employee salaries “shouldn’t be decided on behind a veil of secrecy. Hiding raises in complicated spreadsheets, without any public discourse, isn’t the normal way a proud employer would reward someone’s value.”

LaLota, who is also the Republican Commissioner of the Suffolk County Board of Elections, noted that Kluesener loaned $50,000 to the Suffolk County Democratic Committee, of which Schaffer is chairman, on Oct. 16.

Kluesener’s raise “reeks of political payback,” LaLota said.

Kluesener and Marotta have each donated about $7,600 to the Town of Babylon Democratic Committee since 2006, New York State Board of Elections records show. Wilson donated $4,100 between 2008 and 2014.

“Ron Kluesener has a 30-year distinguished record of serving Babylon residents,” Schaffer said. “I am just sorry we couldn’t pay him more.”

The town hired Kluesener in 1992, Marotta in 1998 and Wilson in 2006, according to Newsday’s payroll database.

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