Payroll Project: Large payouts go to Dayton city execs

Editor’s note: This is one finding of an I-Team analysis of the payrolls of area counties, cities and townships. Pick up Sunday’s paper for the full story, and come back to our website for a searchable database of area government employee salaries.


When two top employees left the city of Dayton last year, they took with them $198,683 in unused sick leave, vacation time and funds set aside every year just to pay departing city executives.

Dayton spokesman Tom Biedenharn alone received $113,339 from the “executive payout” program when he retired last January after nearly 30 years with the city. Departing city law director John Danish walked away with $64,684, making his total pay of $168,029 the city’s highest in 2014.

The executive payout perk is offered only to the city’s top executives. Sixteen currently take part. For each one, the city puts aside an amount equal to 4.6 percent of his or her salary that can be cashed out upon separation.

The city spent $94,532 last year funding the program. The city has administered the program for decades, spending millions of dollars.

City council voted to suspend payments to the program in 2009 in response to questions from the Dayton Daily News.

“As we’ve been going through the 2010 budget process, I have been looking at ways that our executive team can continue to set the tone and direction for the rest of the organization,” then-city manager Tim Riordan said in a 2009 interview. “In reviewing the separation program in response to Dayton Daily News questions, I decided this is one way to accomplish that for 2010.”

But the suspension was only for a year. Then payments started up again.

City Deputy Director of Human Resources Brent McKenzie ($108,457) said executives who take part in the program limit themselves to 20 days of vacation time a year and don’t accrue overtime.

“In light of the fact they get less vacation, they have the incentive program for when they leave,” he said.

City executives can choose not to take part in the program, leaving them with the same leave as other city employees: a max of 30 days of vacation and banked sick leave up to 1,120 hours. When they leave, vacation is paid at the full rate and sick leave at half rate.

All told, the 167 employees who left the city in 2014 received $1.3 million in “fringe benefits” payouts.

Riordan left the city in January after earning $163,478 last year. He chose not to take part in the executive savings plan, though he had a contract that required the city to pay the equivalent of 5 percent of his pay into a deferred compensation program.

The contract with new city manager Warren Price says the same (and puts his salary at $160,000), though he also gets $10,000 in moving expenses to relocate from Stark County and $3,000 a month in living expenses for up to nine months.

Riordan did, however, receive $3,950 from another plan that provides a lump-sum payment of nearly $4,000 at the beginning of every year that can be put toward things such as deferred compensation, a car allowance or health costs.

That program also is only available to city executives.

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