In Pitkin County, undersheriff makes more than sheriff
Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and his undersheriff, Ron Ryan, have a combined salary of more than $228,000. The greater half of that, however, belongs to Ryan — $115,555 — despite his lower rank.
DiSalvo earns nearly $3,000 less than his undersheriff, which is due in large part to salary policies set by the county.
“I think it’s awkward, and I worked closely with (DiSalvo) and other elected officials on this,” Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said. “I don’t think it produced the perfect result, but at least it’s more consistent than it has been. It would make more sense that the head executive’s salary would reflect that.”
The Home Rule Charter sets the salaries of DiSalvo, who makes $112,809, along with Assessor Tom Isaac and Clerk and Recorder Janice Vos Caudill. The three hold elected positions.
Isaac and Vos Caudill both draw salaries of $90,814. They are the highest-paid officials in their departments.
The state has Pitkin as a Category II county, along with Eagle, Fremont, Garfield, La Plata, Mesa and Summit. Legislation sets the sheriff’s pay in those counties at $87,700 and the assessor and clerk’s annual wage at $72,500.
County commissioners earn $72,500 in Category II, which applies to Pitkin County commissioners, as well.
If Pitkin County were bound to state rules regarding salaries for elected officials — it’s not because it’s a home rule charter — pay for those three department heads would be significantly lower.
“The county’s Home Rule Charter allows the commissioners to set salaries before the elections,” Peacock said. “Basically, when we look at the county employee salaries, we do a market survey and we have a cost-of-living adjustment.”
Last year, the county established a process for setting salaries for the assessor, clerk and recorder and sheriff.
The county’s Elected Officials Salary Commission used a market midpoint to adjust their pay, with it to be raised on an average of 3 percent annually — similar to all county employees — with a cap of 5 percent.
Based on a 3 percent projection, the sheriff will earn $116,194 in 2016, while pay for the assessor and clerk will rise to $93,538. Ryan, however, will continue to earn more as long as the across-the-board raises take place.
DiSalvo, 54, said he has no problem with Ryan making more than he does.
“I don’t care,” DiSalvo said. “We joke around here that Ron makes more money, and more power to him.”
DiSalvo said he makes “nice money for living in Aspen, Colorado.”
Ryan, 46, has been with the Sheriff’s Office for 22 years, rising through the ranks as deputy, investigator and now undersheriff.
“When Joe said, ‘Do you want to be undersheriff?’ I took it, and immediately I was making more than he was,” Ryan said.
That was five years ago.
DiSalvo said he’s more concerned with his employees’ pay than his own. Starting pay for a deputy generally ranges from $21 to $22 an hour. The pay should be higher, DiSalvo said.
“I do think my deputies are underpaid,” he said. “Right now, it’s a problem for me because I’ve got people who might look for other work because of the pay. It’s hard for me to complain about a six-figure salary when a lot of my friends are working two or three jobs and they have to be somewhere at 7 a.m. and they don’t finish until 9 p.m.”
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