News Story

Ann Arbor’s $307,000 Firefighter

Some city employees hit the jackpot upon retiring

(Via City of Ann Arbor website)

When Gretchen Virlee-Wagner, an assistant training officer with the Ann Arbor Fire Department, retired in 2017 she collected $307,516 in total compensation for the year.

Virlee-Wagner’s annual base salary in 2017 was $90,376, according to the city. But she used payments for unused compensation time, vacation time and sick time to boost that final year’s income.

“Ms. Wagner retired, and the salary shown includes the pay-outs for her accumulated compensation time, sick pay, and vacation pay,” City Manager Howard Lazarus said in an email. “While the City has capped the amounts for compensation time and vacation, and sick pay-out, there are a few long term employees who have accumulated large balances that will get paid-out at retirement.”

According to OpenTheBooks.com, Virlee-Wagner’s salary in 2014 was $90,692. It jumped to $102,592 in 2015 and $110,581 in 2016.

According to the city of Ann Arbor, Virlee-Wagner retired in February 2017 with 25 years of service.

Virlee-Wagner began working for the city in 1992 and benefited from a contract provision that ended in 1999, according to a source within the Ann Arbor fire department. Whenever she worked overtime under that old rule, she could take overtime pay, or bank two hours of compensation time (time off). The current contract trims allows only 1.5 hours of comp time in lieu of taking overtime pay.

Virlee-Wagner is not the only recent Ann Arbor employee with noteworthy compensation details. Amy Brow was appointed as Ann Arbor’s assistant fire chief in 2015. Brow was also the president of Ann Arbor firefighter union. She retired in May 2017 and collected $179,157 in pay that year, which also included salary, vacation and sick day payouts. Brow’s base salary at that point was $106,870, according to the city.

Brow was then hired in 2017 to be the Ypsilanti Township fire chief.

A third example is Ann Arbor police officer Christopher Wooley, who retired in 2017 with $158,839 in payments. Wooley’s base salary was $83,345 that year.

All three of these individuals are also eligible for city pensions.

The New York Times published a story this week about how public sector employees are losing their foothold in the middle class.

“It’s a tough time to be working in government,” said Neil Reichenberg, executive director of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources, in the article.

Some of the salaries cited in this story came from OpenTheBooks.com, which contains the salaries of many of Michigan's public university employees. OpenTheBooks.com is a nonprofit that has posted several years’ worth of salary data for many government workers in Michigan and other states it gathered through open records requests.