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Investigator's pay questioned again
By Charles Keeshan | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/23/2007 12:13 AM

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When it comes to pay per hour worked, the third-highest-paid person in the McHenry County State's Attorney Lou Bianchi's office isn't the chief of its criminal division.

Nor is it the head of the office's civil division. Or even a member of its special prosecutions unit.

Instead, the designation belongs to a politically active part-time investigator who makes the equivalent of $45.71 an hour, more than all but two others in the office as well as most elected county officials.

Now, with Bianchi in the midst of his first re-election campaign, the salary of chief investigator and political supporter Ron Salgado is an issue opponent Daniel Regna hopes to exploit heading into the Republican Party's February primary.

Salgado, a former McHenry County sheriff's deputy who worked on Bianchi's 2004 election and is part of his re-election campaign, makes $27,430 annually, according to county records.

Because he is collecting a pension as a retired law enforcement officer, state regulations bar him from working more than 600 hours a year, making his salary the equivalent of $45.71 an hour.

Only Bianchi and his first assistant state's attorney make more based on a 40-hour work week. Other investigators in the office, both full-time and part-time, make the equivalent of between $22 and $24.77 per hour.

Investigators under the Bianchi predecessor Gary Pack were making the equivalent of $24.44 and $20.80 an hour in August 2003, county records indicate.

On Wednesday, Regna, a former assistant state's attorney under Pack, called Salgado "grossly overpaid."

"I have no idea why he's being paid more than most elected county officials," Regna said. "There's no justification for that pay rate."

Bianchi defended the salary, saying Salgado is one of his office's top managers with responsibilities that include overseeing three other investigators, serving subpoenas across the state, interviewing witnesses in criminal cases and helping prosecutors prepare for trials.

"It's a fair and reasonable salary for someone in an administrative position and with 24 years' (law enforcement) experience," he said, adding that Salgado does not receive benefits as a part-timer.

Regna and other critics, Bianchi said, are trying to make an issue of Salgado's salary because they cannot attack the successes of his administration.

"They're trying to distract from the real issues," he said. "This is a minuscule issue."

But it is not the first time Bianchi has faced questions about Salgado's salary. Last year, members of the McHenry County Board's human resources committee pressed Bianchi over Salgado's hourly pay when the state's attorney's office appeared before it seeking authority to hire another part-time investigator.

"I don't understand why one part-time guy makes so much more than the other part-time guys," County Board Vice Chairman John Jung, a member of the committee, said Wednesday. "To me it's out of line."

Jung said the county board did not try to alter Salgado's pay because once a budget for the state's attorney's office is established, the state's attorney has discretion over how its employees are compensated.