MERIDEN — The city’s 10 highest-paid employees in 2018 included three department heads and seven police officers.
Police Lt. George Delmastro topped the list with total gross earnings of $199,082, which included a base salary of $75,250, $26,163 in overtime, $54,457 for private duty assignments, $9,745 for unused vacation days, $5,478 for unused sick days and $4,349 for unused comp time, as well as smaller payments for longevity, certifications, training and other items, according to information provided by the city.
Delmastro was followed by Lt. Antonio Carusone, (gross earnings of $172,172), Detective John Cerejo ($159,719), Lt. Thomas Cossette ($158,591), and Sgt. Christopher Fry ($151,378).
Rounding out the top 10 is Finance Director Michael Lupkas ($149,673), Detective Michael Fonda ($149,461), Fire Chief and former interim city manager Ken Morgan ($147,628), former City Planner Bob Seale ($146,855), and Detective John-Paul Dorais ($145,538).
On the Board of Education side, School Superintendent Mark Benigni topped all employees in Fiscal Year 2018-19 with a total salary of $188,403, followed by Assistant Superintendent for Technology and Operations Mike Grove ($165,905) and Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Miguel Cardona ($160,712). The education list encompasses the most recent fiscal year, not calendar year, because administrators’ salaries change by fiscal year and are not augmented by overtime.
City Manager Tim Coon said it’s not uncommon for police officers to be among a municipality’s highest earners.
“That does not surprise me,” Coon said. “... They most definitely provide a very vital service to the city and are paid via union contract to provide those services.”
In each case, the total earnings of officers in the top 10 were driven by compensation for overtime, unused sick and vacation days, as well as private duty assignments, which are paid for by private contractors. The seven officers who earned $145,538 or more had base salaries ranging from $46,000 to $75,000.
Coon said police overtime is collectively bargained, adding overtime can be given for a variety of assignments or when officers need to fill in for colleagues.
Police Chief Jeffrey Cossette and a police union representative couldn’t be reached for comment. Delmastro didn’t return a request for comment.
Seale’s gross earnings of $146,855 included a “separation payment” of $20,671 he received for unused sick and vacation days. Seale was hired by the city in 2015 and resigned in December.
“It’s contractually obligated,” Coon said. “I don't have enough data to say whether it’s a high payout of not, but it’s what he was owed by contract.”
Benigni, superintendent since 2010, earned a lower salary than other superintendents in surrounding towns, including Wallingford Superintendent of Schools Salvatore Menzo, who earned $199,912 in 2018.
Board of Education President Mark Hughes didn’t return a request for comment.