According to employee bonus letters acquired by Reconstructing Dayton through a public records request, Montgomery County employees receive large bonuses at the end of each year with money that would otherwise go back to the county. These are not normal sized bonuses. For the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s office, they range from $4,679.98 to $23,405.24 given to 125 employees in 2019 and all 119 employees in 2020. 2019 bonuses averaged $8,348 and 2020 bonuses averaged $8,851.35. In 2019, the bonuses equaled 9.0% to 21.6% of employee salaries, with an average bonus of 15.4% of an employee’s annual salary.
For the 2020 bonus letters, County Prosecutor Mat Heck wrote that, “As a result of the ongoing economic conditions created by the unprecedented slow down or shut down of many business, and the resulting reduction of tax revenues, the Board of the County Commissioners determined it was necessary to both reduce all county budgets for 2021 by 3.0% and to not authorize any pay raises for 2021.”
The austerity measures Mr. Heck writes of are somewhat reflected in the year-end bonuses. The Prosecutor’s office spent $1,043,543.91 on bonuses in 2019 and $1,053,310.59 in 2020, despite handing bonuses out to fewer individuals in 2020. While it is true that no pay raises were given during 2020, a quick comparison of the numbers reveals that 2020 bonuses were increased to partially compensate for the lack of raises. In some cases, the 2020 bonus exceeded the total 2019 bonus and pay raise combined. For example, in 2019, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Jamie Rizzo received a $4,987.42 bonus and a $1,312.48 pay raise. In 2020, Rizzo received an $8,017.63 bonus, $1,717.73 more than his 2019 bonus and pay raise combined.
2019 Prosecutor Office Bonuses & Raises
The bonuses alone do not reflect the austerity measure of a 3.0% reduction in expenses, but a total reduction in payroll likely achieves that number. This is because of a reduction in staff as every 2020 employee listed on the Prosecutor’s Staff Directory received a bonus letter except Mat Heck, the author of the letters. Regardless, the bonus structure of the Prosecutor’s office appears to be a way for county employees to pocket cash that would normally be returned to taxpayers.
Although it is not uncommon for Christmas bonuses in the private sector to equal a single month’s pay, that would make the average bonus in 2019 only $4,522.05. That is significantly lower than the average of $8,348.35 Mr. Heck actually handed out to his employees.
First Assistant Prosecutor Debra Armanini received the largest bonuses and pay raises. In 2019 Armanini received a bonus of $21,775.10 and a pay raise of $3,780.40 in addition to her $151,216.00 salary. The lowest pay raises in 2019 equaled $1,000, which appears to be the standard pay raise for an employee making less than $40,000.
2020 Prosecutor Office Bonuses
Public records requests for other county offices are pending to reveal what other county offices provide large bonuses with surplus funds. Sources have told us this activity extends beyond the prosecutor’s office, but at the time of publication we have not acquired evidence from other county offices. Although we also placed public records requests on November 25th to the County Engineer, Dayton & Montgomery County Public Health, Montgomery County Job and Family Services, and the Montgomery County Auditor’s Office, only the Prosecutor’s office has complied with our request. The Montgomery County Auditor’s Office responded to our request and promised to comply in the next week or so. This week we have also sent additional requests to the Montgomery County Treasurer’s Office and the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts.
Our sources tell us that this bonus scheme by the county is pervasive. The legality of the bonus scheme is dubious and we are conferring with lawyers to determine whether it violates the letter or just the spirit of the law. The Ohio Revised Code does include language pertaining to the mismanagement of public funds. If you work for the county government and you would like to provide a statement or act as a whistleblower, please contact us. We will keep any sources confidential. If you are a lawyer and would like to provide a pro-bono analysis of this issue, we would also love to hear from you.
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Just the facts:
- Average pay increase (bonus + raises) 2019 = $9,748.99
- Average bonus 2019 = $8,348.35
- Average bonus 2020 = $8,851.35
- Payroll (according to letters) 2019 = $6,783,082
- Payroll + bonuses (according to letters) 2019 = $7,826,625.91
- Average salary (2019) = $54,264.65
- 3% of above # = $234,798.78
- Bonuses 2019 = $1,043,543.91
- Bonuses + Raises (2019) = $1,218,624.21
- Bonuses 2020 = $1,053,310.59
- Difference between 2019/2020 = $9,766.68