Chicago's mayor says it's 'very easy' to justify top cop's $300,000 salary

By Gary Washburn
The Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO Mayor Richard Daley made no apologies Tuesday for making Chicago's new police superintendent the highest-paid employee on the city payroll, insisting the $300,000 a year that Jody Weis will receive is warranted for his responsibilities.

Justifying Weis' salary is "very, very easy," Daley said. "Highland Park -- $126,000 for a police chief. How many people live there? Lake Forest, $119,000, Barrington, $113,000, Los Angeles, $300,000."

The Los Angeles figure includes certain fringe benefits paid to Chief William Bratton.

"This man could go anyplace within the FBI," Daley said of Weis. "He could go outside [to the private sector]. I am very responsible paying him that much money."

Assuming City Council approval, Weis will be paid both for his police duties and for serving as the city's chief emergency officer, in charge of disaster planning, coordination and response.

"When you want to get the best, you get the best," Daley said.

The annual salary of former Police Supt. Philip Cline, who retired this year, was about $186,000. Daley's office said officials involved in the search for a successor found that many potential candidates, including Weis, were paid more than that in their current positions.

Weis, whose 22-year law-enforcement career has been with the FBI, was the first person to be offered the job but was not necessarily Daley's first choice.

Sources in Chicago and Washington report that Daley interviewed Michael Mason, executive assistant director at FBI headquarters. He "encompassed everything the mayor was looking for" and was "the perfect candidate," said one city official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Mason has a "pristine record," is a native of Chicago's Englewood neighborhood and is African-American, something considered a plus, the official said.

Mason, however, told Daley that he already had committed to a private-sector job that would begin after his FBI retirement. Mason recommended Weis, who has been in charge of the agency's Philadelphia field office, the official said.

Weis also was recommended by both Robert Grant, head of the Chicago FBI office, and another agent who sources said had been approached by the mayor about the superintendent's position.

Because of increasing tension between police and residents in some minority communities, Daley has been criticized for choosing a white chief. Asked about that Tuesday, the mayor replied, "Race has nothing to do with it."

Daley spoke Tuesday at a City Hall news conference where he announced two new cabinet members.

Ellen Sahli, 41, is the mayor's choice to run the Housing Department, which she joined in 1999. She has been the city liaison on homelessness and supportive housing. Since June, Sahli has been the Housing Department's acting commissioner.

Scott Bruner, 41, will run the Department of Administrative Hearings, which handles 400,000 cases of parking tickets and ordinance violations. He is a former Cook County prosecutor who joined the city in 2003 and since 2005 has served as director of the Department of Business Affairs and Licensing.

Copyright 2007 Chicago Tribune

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