How We Did It
How much do you make a year?
Most people don't like that question — and for good reason. If your answer is perceived as too much, your co-workers will resent you. If it's too little, you risk embarrassing yourself in a society that often equates money with worth.
But as much as people don't like to share their salary with others, they love to know what others are making. Which is part of the reason we decided to do this story, even though we knew it wouldn't be easy.
To unearth the salaries of the 100-plus people in our story, we asked at least four times that many people. We made cold calls to businesses in the Yellow Pages. We sent e-mails to anyone we could think of. We sent our intern, Katie Gallagher, on cab and bus rides to ask the drivers how much they earn. We scoured financial reports for publicly traded companies and reviewed the tax filings of nonprofits.
Many of the people on our list had absolutely no obligation to reveal their salary. While probably 90 percent of the "private" people we asked turned us down, quite a few were willing to tell all. "It didn't seem like a big deal," explains bartender Brandy Rybak (see page 50). "People always wonder what bartenders make."
The "public" people on our list — such as nonprofit heads and CEOs of public companies — were a different story. The law requires them to provide tax filings that contain information on executive compensation. In other words, their salary is a matter of public record, a fact many of the people on our list were none too happy about. As one nonprofit leader bluntly asked, "What incentive would I have to do that?"
A spokeswoman at another nonprofit was downright angry at our request, calling our story "intrusive" and "salacious" and accusing us of blackmail. Another nonprofit head charged us $1 a page, plus 37 cents postage — for public information. She was the only person on our entire list who charged for it.
Other nonprofits were much more helpful. The American Red Cross, United Way and Cleveland Tomorrow were quick to comply with our request. The government offices we contacted were also responsive.
One thing to remember when reading the list: While most of the salaries are for 2002, the figures for nonprofits and publicly traded companies are generally for the year 2001, the last year that is currently available.
In the end, we collected 116 salaries. We promise to hold off a while before asking about sex, politics or religion.
|Timing is everything when you're a quarterback. Unfortunately,
Kelly Holcomb signed a two-year contract extension just before his stellar
performance filling in for Tim Couch last season. If he had waited, he could
have pursued a starting job as an unrestricted free agent. "One bird in
hand is better than two in the bush," Holcomb told The Plain Dealer.
President and CEO
Starbucks, Playhouse Square
$1,151 (six months of part-time employment
at $6.75 a hour)
|Despite the fact that CEO Smith earns about 1,000 times as
much as she does, Lott's not complaining. She cites good benefits, cool
people and a pleasant atmosphere as perks of the job. Plus, she makes an
additional $2 to $3 an hour in tips. "It's not like you're over a grease
pit," she notes. Still, her latté days are limited. In the fall, she heads
for Seattle to earn her master's degree in computer engineering.
|David M. McGuirk
Executive assistant to the mayor
City of Cleveland
Jane L. Campbell
City of Cleveland
|How does the mayor's assistant make more money than the mayor?
Campbell's salary is set by the city charter, but she sets the salaries
of those who work for her. To attract top talent, explains chief of public
affairs Rodney Jenkins, you have to pay well. "She has a lot of people who
make more money than her," he notes.
Avon Lake School District
(until December 2003)
Avon Lake School District
(after December 2003)
Ross will soon be making $28,000 a year less, but he'll actually be taking
in more money. Following in the tracks of a dozen or so superintendents
across Northeast Ohio, Ross plans to retire and then be rehired, allowing
him to collect both a salary and a pension. The deal saves money for Avon
Lake and makes money for Ross, but it drains the already hurting state
teachers' pension fund, according to Richard A. DeColibus, president of
the Cleveland Teachers Union. While many teachers double-dip, too, DeColibus
says the average teacher does not have the guarantee of being rehired
that most superintendents do. "[Superintendents] have access," DeColibus
says. "They can make the backroom deals, with a high degree of certainty
that they will be rehired."
Avon Lake School Board president Mike Mannino says Ross had no such assurance.
"There is never a guarantee of re-employment," he says. "That was our
choice in this case. Dan does a tremendous job." Mannino points out that
Ross could have easily gone to another school district after retiring
and earned a full salary. Instead, he chose to stay in Avon Lake and work
for a reduced salary of $95,000.
For the complete story of Real People's Paychecks, pick up Cleveland Magazine
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