City, county employees earn big money in 2012

Sandusky law director Don Icsman and Erie County health commissioner Pete Schade led the pack in 2012 earnings among local public employees, according to a Register analysis of salary databases obtained through public records requests.
Andy Ouriel
Feb 11, 2013


From elected officials to police officers, the analysis evaluated the gross wages of about 1,100 people employed by Erie County and Sandusky. Gross wages account for all payments the employees received, including overtime, vacation and retirement payouts. In total, Erie County and Sandusky taxpayers fronted about $43 million for salaries in 2012, paying the average county or city worker about $39,000 a year.   

Earning close to $134,000 a year, Icsman is the top-paid employee in both Sandusky and Erie County. He primarily provides legal counsel to the seven city commissioners. 
The second highest-paid employee in Sandusky, city manager Nicole Ard, also supervises city operations. Hired in October 2011, Ard earned about $125,500 in 2012.
Pete Schade’s healthy salary — the highest among about 900 Erie County employees — has skyrocketed almost 38 percent in the past seven years.
At the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Erie and Ottawa Counties executive director Kirk Halliday and his No. 2 employee, Beth Williams round out the list of the Top 5 earners in the study, respectively holding the No. 4 and No. 5 spots.     
Read more about top-paid government employees and what they do to earn their salaries in today's Register or e-paper.



Julie R.

Iscman earns $134,000.00 a year .... and that's in addition to all the cases he farms out to other lawyers?


It doesn't seem fit to pay Don Icsman the amount of money he receives when in fact he misguided the commissioners on the charter and always farms out legal services to outside firms. So the $134,000 question is what are the taxpayers paying him for?


I thought Icsman's salary was $134,000 when he was holding down both the attorney and City Manager's job. My question is, did the city forget to downgrade his salary when he stepped down as being City Manager? Someone has to look into this. He makes more then the present City Manager. I think the city needs to take Icsman's job back down to part-time like it was year's ago and save the city a bunch of money. We could get two part-time attorneys for what we pay out to Icsman.

Tell it how it is.

Andy, I think you need to write a positive article every once and a while. While I appreciate your undermining of local government, try and highlight what good people do every once and a while. This makes it depressing to pick up the Register every week. If you just did this once a month it would be much better.


How is this a negative article? The Register is reporting how your tax dollars are being spent, in this case exorbitantly.

There is no way a small town Law Director should be paid $134,000 yearly when the city farms out most of its legal work to $200 an hour lawyers.

Yet another example how local government finds it easy to spend someone elses money.


How is it that the Clerk of the Municipal Court makes $71,684 in salary more then the Judge who makes $63,249.00 in salary? It is too sad when the clerk makes more money then the judge.


Iceman seams like a bargain to me @ $65.00/ hour . Not bad my attorney works @$180.00/ hour. I think you all really need to look @ Pete and the health department board. Board members you are responsible for the 38% increase in wages over the past 7 years!? What are you people thinking? Have you looked @ the economy over the past seven years. Change the good old boys board over there and you will see a change @ the top! Think about it people a counties highest paid person is the director of the health department. Monies not well spent!


It's a shame that this is a matter of public record. Sure, I'm a "taxpayer", and pay the wages of these employees. I think it is nobodys business, including mine what these people make. I agree that some wages are a little excessive. But that should be handled internally as a personell matter.


Schade's salary is the one that makes me shake my head.


In the private sector, my employer's yearly review process is comprised of two major components: #1) performance as compared to peers in the same function & grade level, and #2) compensation as compared to peers at the same grade level.

I would ask how Icsman's performance is compared to others in the legal profession. And I would also ask how Icsman's compensation is compared to others in the legal profession. Would he be compensated more or less than his peers in private practice? How has he performed in his role over the course of last year? How does his salary compare to his peers in the same position in other comparable-size Ohio towns?

Icsman may or may not be a bargain at his current compensation. I simply do not know. That's why I'm wondering how he compares in terms of results and compensation against both public and private sector peers.


After reading the pdf's , looks like a lot of people making big money in this dog patch area.

Truth or Fiction

Let's face it. Front page! Putting employees' pictures in place of that of a president on a bill! The article was biased before it was written or the Editor who at most major papers is responsible for the headlines - spiced it up a bit!

Unfortunately, comparison in pay must also be compared with length of service and responsibility assigned from one position to another. An article like this only creates misunderstanding and angst among the public.


A $40,000 raise in one year? When Mr. Icsman was appointed interim City Manager, his salary increased approx. $40,000. When the new City Manager was hired, his salary was to be reduced. Never happened. Thanks Commission for looking out for our tax dollars. Cha-Ching

A Sandusky Register article from Jan 8th---Sandusky spent $350,000 in legal fees to private legal firms.


I believe I speak for the majority of those that comment on here when I say that anyone who makes more than us needs to have their pay slashed. Should those earning more than us have benefits, those should be slashed as well.


@Trustafarian, who is the "us" in "...anyone who makes more than us..."? And what would be the $$ figure maximum you are thinking of that a public servant can't make more than? $30,000/yr? $40,000/yr? What figure?

Here's something to keep in mind . . . if the city can only offer a law director salary below what an experienced legal professional can command in the private sector, one of the following events is most likely to occur, #1) the list of potential experienced candidates will most likely be limited to those with lesser skills who aren't profitable in the private sector and therefore may not necessarily give the best legal advice to the city, #2) the city will only be able to hire those legal professionals having recently passed the bar exam, again running the risk of not necessarily getting the best legal advice for the city.

In the first example, the city potentially places itself in more legal risk with an inexperienced or inept legal rep. In the second example, the same could occur, or the person could end up being really good, and then would leave the city to make more money elsewhere or in the private sector.

Sometimes you really do "get what you pay for".


It was meant to be sarcasm. It's merely my observation that anytime pay is discussed, the immediate reaction is usually "cut their pay". There are those among us that feel any job they are capable of doing should pay the wage that the complainer is currently earning. I apologize if my snark led to any confusion.


@trust, thank you. And I think if the city hired any one of us, *ESPECIALLY* me, to handle this job, yearly insurance premiums costs would soar well above $150,000.00/year to cover the cost of my ineptitude. :-)


A $40,000 raise in one year? When Mr. Icsman was appointed interim City Manager, his salary increased approx. $40,000. When the new City Manager was hired, his salary was to be reduced. Never happened. Thanks Commission for looking out for our tax dollars. Cha-Ching

A Sandusky Register article from Jan 8th---Sandusky spent $350,000 in legal fees to private legal firms.


@paved, if what you wrote is indeed true, *THIS* story would've definitely been a better story for the SR to pursue. In fact, a good city reporter, current and "in the know" on all city government information, would've probed and questioned city officials about this right after a new City Manager had been hired, then would've reported the story and outcome from questioning city officials.


The information is good to know especially when the city is entertaining the toughts of special fees and income tax hike.


Icsman $134 thousand, is the city nuts? Well I guess if Icsman can baffle the seven commissioners, which wouldn't take much to do, I guess he can tell the commissioners what he wants to make and they will listen. I wonder if he still gets a city car to drive and free fuel????
Darkhorse you are right in your statement.
I don't think Icsman is worth $50 thousand.



I would hazard a guess that Icsman could make at least twice of what he is making in the private sector.


I would state the Sandusky Register has done a poor job in its reporting on this subject. A more complete, impartial, fair and newsworthy story would have been one not only reporting the salaries of top local officials, but also comparing local salaries and responsibilities to salaries and responsibilities of peers in like-size Ohio cities to start with, then followed by measurable performance criteria outcome. Just reporting the salaries, and superimposing the picture of one of these individuals in place of Benjamin Franklin on a $100 bill definitely gives a negative slant. Makes me now wonder if the submitting reporter had 15 minutes to make print deadline, attached a couple of .pdf files, cobbled a quick story together, then hit the 'Send' button.

Brick Hamland

Well said. The article is written in a manner to inflame "tax payers." The comparison to other governments of this size would be good factual information.

Brick Hamland

Don Icsman puts a lot of hours in and is a pretty smart guy. I have worked in the law department at the City years ago, and i will tell you that very few local lawyers would want to take that job (even at $134K). A lot of headaches come from that position. Especially when you are the legal counsel to the commissioners who may or may not be qualified to hold that position (since it is an elected spot), and do not always want to follow the legal advice they are given. Icsman could make more money in private practice if he wished to leave the city, he really should be thanked for his efforts and the amount of time he has put in at the City. Also, if you get part time lawyers to cover this spot then when there is a conflict in their private practice with paying clients and the city, the city would be put on the back burner. Careful what you wish for...

Julie R.

Why does it say that Roger Binette, Tygh Tone, Robert Delamatre and Beverly McGookey are all common pleas court judges when McGookey is the probate court judge and DeLamatre is the juvenile court judge? Why also does Erie County need two separate judges --- one for probate and one for juvenile --- when the majority of Ohio's 88 counties have only one judge that serves as both juvenile and probate court judge?

Swamp Fox

Juvenile & Probate are divisions of Common Pleas,Judge McGookey also hears general division cases

Julie R.

So what exactly are you trying to say, anyway? That because the Juvenile and Probate Courts are a division of the Common Pleas that means Erie County has three other judges besides McGookey ~ i.e. Tone, Binette & DeLamatre ~ that can also handle probate cases?

If that's true, why is the probate court still using retired rent-a-judges to FIX cases, like the clown I witnessed in action last year?

Julie R.

So if (according to you) there are 4 judges in Erie County that can handle probate cases ~ the probate court judge Beverly McGookey, the juvenile court judge DeLamatre, plus the two common pleas court judges, Tygh Tone and Roger Binette ~ why are sneaky attorneys illegally filing and dismissing bogus sham lawsuits with sitting judges in the jurisdiction of Cuyahoga County when the jurisdiction of Cuyahoga County has nothing to do with the probate estates of life-long Erie County residents?

Julie R.

Iscman earns close to $134,000.00 a year as Sandusky's law director compared to Vermilion's law director, Kenneth Stumphauzer, who only makes about $26,000.00 a year. Of course, it fails to mention that Stumphauzer uses his Lorain County law firm of Stumphauzer & O'Toole to handle all the legal issues for the city of Vermilion so I guess it would pretty much average out in the end ...... and probably then some.

The Bizness

Don't you think that the people on this list that don't make a lot of money could be kind of embarrassed when friends see their salary? Just kind of my thought if I made <40k and was on that list.


Maybe tax free under the table payments help?


Combine fire services. Huge savings to be had there. Less laying around the station and washing the trucks.

My Opinion is...

Try comparing Icsman's salary with any of the County Attorneys and see how they compare to get an idea of public sector attorney rates. Attorneys in the Private Sector can charge $150/hour, but usually they bill in 6 minute increments and their office overhead needs to be considered when they set their rates. It's even better when private sector attorneys do legal work and then their clients don't pay. I don't think Icsman needs to worry about the department overhead coming out of his salary, or unpaid legal bills affecting his bottom line.

Truth or Fiction

Just read these comments and it shows the intent of the article. If you are public employee, you are in the cross-hairs of the paper.

I would ask that when the paper makes a comparison they give the background. For example, if a city solicitor in Vermilion makes $26k is it a part-time job, a contracted job, or simply a retainer job from a local law firm.

Finally, an associate, not a partner, with 5+ years of experience in a large Ohio Law firm can be expected to receive payables at $250 per hour. At $134K divided by 2080 hours in a year, Mr. Icsman's billable hours to the City stands at approximately $64 per hour. That's only 26% of what you would pay an attorney 5-years out of law school.

The villian is not the employees with their pictures replacing Ben Franklin. I will leave it up to you to decide who is!


@T or F, agree with you 100%. The story as published by the SR seems to be an attempt to get residents "riled up" about salaries of the highest-paid local public officials. As I wrote in an earlier response to this article, this story is not fair and certainly not in-depth reporting. I would like to ask the reporter why they chose to report the salaries, and more specifically, what their intent was in replacing Ben Franklin's picture on a $100 bill.

A more balanced and in-depth reporting of Mr. Icsman's salary would've included not only what his peers in neighboring cities are paid, but also what the city is getting in the way of deliverables from Mr. Icsman.

I hope the SR, in future reporting, puts more than 10 minutes into gathering up a story before they publish it.


"Earning close to $134,000 a year, Icsman is the top-paid employee in both Sandusky and Erie County. He primarily provides legal counsel to the seven city commissioners."

Iscman primarily provides legal counsel to the seven city commissioners? How much does the Erie County prosecutor make to provide counsel to the entire county officials?


These figures are over/under estimated.


It doesn't appear these are estimates at all but exact figures from the source given. These appear to have been taken from the files of the city and county. They can be taken because they are public record. Any public figure, including those who work for any public agency, I believe, can have their financial income given to any source for public examination by anyone. That goes with the territory. If you don't want your income examined, don't work for the public.

So what you see, is what they get. As for what some of them get: I wish I had it. Not bad for "all in a day or year's worth". I don't do their jobs so I can't say what they are worth or would I pay them that.

It just seems somewhat high given the results of late that we the people have expected to be getting here in Sandusky such as with the police committee.

I would think that given Icsman's temporary raise while doing both jobs, he should not have expected to hang on to any big raise like $40 grand this time around given the economy. Come on now. None of us got that big a raise and frankly, the screw up with that committee should have told him he didn't deserve that big a raise. Maybe $10,000 but not $40,000.

If he thinks he can get more out in the real world, by all means, go for it. We will begin looking for someone else immediately to replace him at a lesser rate tomorrow. That is his decision. You can't have everything. But he knows he can't make as much out there as he does in here right off the bat either. So I don't think giving up this kind of money is realistic either. So don't sweat the small stuff.

As for Ms Ard, she shouldn't have gotten a raise either. Not until we see some forward movement in Sandusky. She needs to work with those commissioners and get this town moving. Where are the factories, the businesses we need? That is what I want to see! When that becomes a reality then she can get a raise. until then, her salary should remain flat.

Those are just my opinions. And NONE of the commissioners deserve raises. Some of them don't deserve to remain on council either. They should go right now for what some of them have done. None of the big shots on some of the departments either. Some of them need to go as well. This isn't a charity ward. It's business. Stop stealing from the taxpayers. Until you do your jobs you don't deserve your salaries let alone raises. You are lucky is am not your boss, very lucky.


Glad to see this. Inflame? Hardly. Most knew what Delphi employees made. Or Ford workers. Why is any one else different?


Is that really what he looks like? (Mr. Icsman)

Pastor Ron

As a legal scholar Icsman must know that the increase in pay he got when he was the temporary City Manager went away when the new City Manager was in place. Pretty sure he is liable for repayment of the money that he was overpaid. How does he justify getting paid for being the City Manager when somebody else was paid to do the job? If he doesn't realize how bad this looks... maybe we do need a new Law Director!

Rod Farva

Post a list of people on welfare too. They get paid by taxpayers too