At a time when many are complaining about Washington, D.C., our data shows that states and local units of government need a lot more scrutiny. That’s especially true in Illinois where corruption is our number one manufactured product.
See the highest to lowest 2015 municipal salaries here. See the top all-time municipal pensions here.
In Illinois, 72 small-town city and village managers out-earn every governor of the 50 states. Another 111 local employees of water districts, airport districts, park districts, counties, forest preserves, mass transit districts, health clinics and planning districts also earn more than the 50 governors ($180,000).
Let’s look at a few areas in more detail:
1. Village and city managers out-earn every governor of the 50 states

In Illinois, the top honors go to the administrators of comparatively small governments. The top five highest pensionable salaries are Lawrence Hileman ($303,076) – Village of Glenview (pop. 45,417); Richard Nahrstadt ($263,392) – Village of Northbrook (pop. 33,170); Michael Ellis ($263,269) – Village of Grayslake (pop. 21,101); Reid Ottesen ($260,296) – Village of Palatine (pop. 69,350); Robert Kiely ($256,196) – City of Lake Forest (pop. 19,375).
Rounding out the top ten are Michael Janonis ($250,544) – Village of Mount Prospect (pop. 54,505); Kevin Bowens ($242,397) – Village of Libertyville (pop. 20,431); Christopher Stephens ($240,000) – Village of Rosemont (pop. 4,236); Walter Bobkiewicz ($232,671) – City of Evanston (pop. 75,570); and Sean Stegall (229,917) – City of Elgin (pop. 110,145).
Last year, the Palatine Village Manager Reid Ottesen received a $29,000 pensionable salary hike from $231,347 to $260,296. In 2011, the board cut Ottesen’s salary to $200,379 after we highlighted his $255,283 salary and 25 other ‘benefit buckets.’ But, just four years later, it’s back to $260,296.
At the local level, it’s not just the municipal managers getting in on the action. Park District bosses are raking in huge salaries: Dominic Egizio ($270,713) – Joliet Park District; Timothy Dimke ($246,447) – Rockford Park District; Stephen Scholten ($224,107) – Arlington Heights Park District.
Water, airport, mass transit and forest preserve district chiefs are also making big money. Here’s a sample: Brian Dorn ($228,726) – North Shore Water Reclamation; Michael Palazzetti ($228,677) – DuPage County Forest Preserve; Jeffrey Nelson ($226,075) – Rock Island County MET; Bruce Carter ($199,477) – Metropolitan Airport Authority.
2. Legal corruption – top three Illinois ‘municipal salaried’ employees don’t even work for government
Unbelievably, politically connected private non-profit associations are clouted into the public retirement system with taxpayer-backed lifetime pensions. Taxpayers have no control over the amount of annual salary awarded at these private organizations, but it’s the salaries that drive the lifetime retirement payouts. Salary spiking – when salaries are jacked up for a short period to increase pensions or to just milk the system – is common.

In 2015, the top two rank and file ‘municipal’ salaries are Peter Murphy ($352,382 – Illinois Association of Park Districts) and Brett Davis ($309,791 – Park District Risk Management Agency). Murphy has ‘earned’ $2.723 million since 2005 with a 140-percent salary spike. Davis is on-pace to earn $1 million in just under three years – up from ‘only’ $155,324 in 2005.
In 2015, former Executive Director of the Illinois Municipal League (IML) Larry Frang retired on a $169,900 annual pension. In Frang’s final ten years of employment, he received a triple in wages, from $130,812 to $392,423. His employer, IML, is so unaccountable that they haven’t filed an IRS income tax return since 1979. Read my Forbes piece, ‘Instrumentality of the State.’