April 22, 2010

"Sweet retirement deal for county's former COO"

Intelligencer/Courier Times editorial, April 21, 2010:
The Republican commissioners running Bucks County should not ink a deal with a new county boss without first publicly discussing compensation. That's the reasoned request of Democratic Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia.

Taxpayers ought to demand it.

They ought to demand it because the deal given to former Chief Operating Officer Dave Sanko, fully disclosed only two days ago, might have been more mindful of taxpayers had it been talked about in the open.

Sanko, an ex-bigwig with the GOP, was hired in 2004 at $125,000 a year, not exorbitant for the chief executive of a large organization. But let's remember that his was, and remains, a government job, which means the benefits are good and holidays plentiful.

When Sanko resigned five years later, he was earning $140,688. Again, not outrageous. But during that time, Sanko also drove a county car, compliments of taxpayers. And, it turns out, he received a sweet retirement deal, also courtesy of taxpayers.

How sweet became clear this week when the county revealed that Sanko received $76,500, the amount the county deposited into a "457" retirement fund for Sanko over his tenure. Unlike the shrunken 401(k) retirement accounts most people in the private sector have, Sanko did not have to deposit any of his own income into the account, according to the county finance director.

That's not how it works for other nonunion county workers. Their 457 retirement plans are built on the employees' own contributions; the county doesn't throw in a dime. That Sanko's retirement deal turned the formula upside down made it unique in Bucks County, the finance director said.

Uniquely generous!

In fact, when taxpayers file their federal income tax returns next year, they might consider claiming part of Sanko's retirement as a charitable contribution. Or maybe they should consider it a political contribution.

Either way, the taxpayers' generosity doesn't end there. The "deferred compensation" Sanko received is just part of his retirement deal. When Sanko reaches 60, he'll be entitled to pension payments of $18,000 a year for his five years of service here. . . .