The Decision about Barnett’s Salary to be made Next Week


Tom Barnett

The CCO Supports Honoring the Bargain that brought him here in an Ethical Manner

One of lightning rod issues this year in Evansville politics came when it was revealed that Tom Barnett, the Director of Metropolitan Development for the City of Evansville was drawing two paychecks. One of those paychecks was paid to Mr. Barnett from the City of Evansville the old fashioned way in the amount of $71,178 per year, the maximum allowable under the City of Evansville’s salary schedules. The other paycheck came from GAGE in the amount of $42.643 per year giving Barnett an annual compensation package of $113,821.

The deal for Barnett to get the supplemental paycheck from GAGE was negotiated, written, and signed by Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel on behalf of GAGE as its Chairman of the Board of Directors. No other GAGE board members or officers signatures were on the contract. The Mayor and Barnett have been open with the fact that Barnett’s salary in Paducah, KY a town of 25,720 was already higher than Evansville’s maximum allowable, and that he had an offer in hand for $107,000 from the City of Eustis, FL that has a population of 19,129. Evansville is over 4 times larger than either of these cities.

As the CCO is all about advocating for good public policy, we must point out that this two paycheck arrangement was a prime example of bad public policy. It is bad public policy to have salary schedules that are not competitive with comparable cities. Evansville’s salary schedules in Barnett’s case were not even up to par with much smaller cities with lower costs of living. One bad policy in this case led to another. The two paycheck scheme hatched and implemented by Mayor Weinzapfel spared him the scrutiny of the Evansville City Council in the hiring process. When it all became public, it backfired and Barnett was caught in the crossfire.

Councilman Dan McGinn has told us that he supports the City Council approving Mr. Barnett’s pay for 2011, which was tabled due to confusion, at the level that is the equivalent to the two paycheck scheme and that he should be paid the old fashioned way by one paycheck from the City of Evansville. The City County Observer agrees wholeheartedly with Councilman McGinn.

We also would like to encourage the City of Evansville to go one step further and do whatever study needs to be done to establish and approve salary schedules for all City of Evansville jobs that are competitive with peer cities across the country. Having salary schedules that are not competitive stunts our ability to retain or attract talent to these important positions. Perhaps both talented and willing people already live here to fill these positions if they were seen and compensated in a competitive manner. Taking this step is one necessary step to counter one of the reasons that we continue to have this problem often referred to as “brain drain” where our best and brightest leave the area.

Modernizing the salary schedules for both the City of Evansville and Vanderburgh County employees is good public policy and we encourage the governing entities to get busy and make this happen

2011 is an election year. We need exemplary candidates to come forward for all of the offices that are on the ballot. If the elected offices are not competitive with peer cities then something needs to be done about that too.

The Director of DMD reports to the Mayor of Evansville. The current Director of DMD is paid more than the Mayor. It is also time to raise the salary of the Mayor of Evansville to a level that substantially exceeds the salaries of the people who directly report into that office. Our future as a community depends on attracting qualified candidates who recognize and practice good public policy. Modernizing the salary for the Office of the Mayor of Evansville will make holding that office more attractive to people with knowledge, drive, talent, and experience.


  1. I agree with the CCO about getting the best takes money, but the Question remains, Why do the Candidates spend such obscene amounts of money to garner the Mayor’s Office if the pay is so low?
    We all know the answer don’t we.

        • Do you think it’s more about power for the mayor himself or herself, or more about the power that can be exerted through the mayor by those who supported his or her election with money.

          • Both, the extent depends on which is the puppet and which is the puppet master. The Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg is most certainly no ones puppet. Mayors of Evansville??? You make the call.

            • To implement yes. It would be very interesting to see just how the candidate pool would increase if the Mayor’s salary was doubled though. I bet the depth and breadth of the candidate pool would grow dramatically. The same would go for City Council. If that were raised to $60k you would have 50 or 100 people interested in those positions. Now the party chairmen recruit candidates.

  2. It’s ironic, with all the incomplete projects, ticking liabilities (sewers), lack of updated master plans and public outrage… (gage losses, baseball stadium deals, secret votes resulting in property tax theft, etc.)

    that pay raises would even be on the table for discussion.

    One thing this city seems to do well… take a quick analysis of some other city/town, add a nice bromide in there like “getting the best takes money”, attain bureaucratic buy in – and vuala you get knee jerk policy.

  3. If the SBOA says it appears to be illegal, then I think that requires a definitive answer.

    As for Barnett’s performance thus far, I think that Evansville Brownfields Corp. has violated their 501c status by having Barnett and Connie Robinson on its board, and using taxpayer dollars to build new homes and then selling them for much less than the construction cost, and paying a real-estate agent a fee for doing that, is the height of arrogance and disrespect for taxpayers.

    Can Barnett, and his boss, point to a single thing they have done where they have not put the screws to the taxpayers?

  4. The only problem with paying Barnett 113,000.00 is that if the job had been advertised as paying 113,000.00 per year we would have gotten more applicants to choose from. Is Barnett the best we can get for 113,000.00 per year?

  5. It is long over due that local gov employees are paid competitive wages. With the current census data, it is proof that wages in Evansville AS A WHOLE need to go up.

    Don’t forget, we get what we pay for…so when things like the Assessor worker who worked from home as after having a child, the unfortunate DMD director debachle and just pure lack of talent and drive from employees happen – it is becasue these people dont make enough to really “care” about their job outputs… the tax payers end up getting half-hearted returns from the public service sector. Pay people a respectable wage and we’ll get respectable services.

    Really – look at what Barnett has accomplished – alot more than in the previous decades. He may be labeled as difficult but he gets results. He cares and goes above and beyond because he feels like he should. IMHO…

    • And because he has the knowledge, the drive, and the energy to get out and make things happen.

  6. When hiring an employee like Mr Barnett, I understand good pay draws qualified people, what I don’t agree with is your stance that Good Citizenship and participation (i.e. city council, etc) is dependant upon the how much money it pays
    If it is,– then thats a shame.

    • In many cases the shame that you fear is the reality. It is not true in all cases. Obviously Bloomberg is not interested in staying Mayor of NYC for the money. There are on the other side many many elected officials that really do run for office for the money and especially the benefits. What seems to be missing in large numbers are these upper middle management types who do not need the money or the benefits but do have very good management skills and good business judgement. It is absolutely true that many people with great talent are simply not interested in political office. Part of that reason is that they can’t make a decent living from elected office and the other is that it is just so nasty that they want no part of it.

  7. I would like to add, having served on an appointed Board in government some years ago, No one I served with took on the responsibility for the Money.

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