Government & Politics

Marcia St. Martin says S&WB should pay her replacement more than $206,000

Marcia St. Martin, the outgoing head of the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans, believes the utility will have to pay her replacement more than her, she said at an executive committee meeting Friday.

St. Martin, who called her $206,000 annual salary a “bargain” at the meeting, is set to retire in December with a $175,000 annual pension.

Though she didn’t name a salary figure, she alluded to it when asked how much the utility expects to spend on the national search for her replacement. St. Martin said her staff is in the process of drafting a solicitation for a search firm.

“Traditionally the search firm’s fees are between 25 and 35 percent of the compensation,” she said. The budget will probably be between $60,000 and $75,000, and possibly as much as $80,000, she said.

Based on those fees, the pay for the new executive director would range from $171,000 to $320,000. St. Martin said the Sewerage & Water Board will have to offer more than $206,000 to attract qualified candidates.

“I think it’s going to be a challenge to replace me for my current compensation,” she said. “I think the market is a little bit more than what the current compensation is.”

If the board follows St. Martin’s advice, her replacement could be the highest-paid employee in local government. That distinction now belongs to New Orleans Aviation Director Iftikhar Ahmad, who makes $227,000 a year, according to the Department of Civil Service.

St. Martin makes more than the top administrators in City Hall. New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Ronal Serpas earns $189,000 a year. Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin is paid $179,000. Mayor Mitch Landrieu is paid $140,000 annually.

A spokeswoman for the the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, to which the Sewerage & Water Board belongs, said the group doesn’t have the typical salary for a water system director.

Similar positions in St. Tammany and Jefferson parishes pay $118,000 and $162,000 respectively, according to parish records. The director of the Austin Water Utility in Texas, which serves nearly 900,000 customers, makes $169,000 a year, according to a report in The Texas Tribune.

St. Martin has been with the Sewerage & Water Board for more than 20 years and has served as director for the past nine. She started that post with a salary of $150,000 — $40,000 above her predecessor, according to a 2004 Times-Picayune story on her appointment.

The Sewerage & Water Board has lately come under scrutiny for St. Martin’s generous retirement package. As WVUE-TV reported in April, when she retires she will receive an annual pension of $175,000, plus a one-time payment of nearly $700,000 from cashing out a Deferred Retirement Option Plan.

“I don’t think the local press thinks so,” St. Martin said, “but it has been a pretty good bargain.”

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About Charles Maldonado

Charles Maldonado covers the city of New Orleans and other local government bodies. He previously worked for Gambit, New Orleans’ alternative newsweekly, where he covered city hall, criminal justice and public health. Before moving to New Orleans, he covered state and local government for weekly papers in Nashville and Knoxville, Tenn.

  • What are the qualifications for this job? What qualifications did Ms. St. Martin bring to the table? What about her second in command Rev. Jackson?

  • ceasarelloie

    Mr. Jackson is not her second in command. He is somewhat of a spokesperson to the public
    for that agency. In addition, he’s the guy that goes to Baton Rouge as a
    representative of the agency. New Orleans has made its citizens pay through
    their noses these past few years since Katrina, but she (The City) herself does
    not want to pay. Employees of the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board were
    determined to have been 35% underpaid as it compare to other agencies, in a
    study done 20 years ago. This status has not since been corrected but in fact
    has dropped even lower on the pay scale as they compare to other facilities of
    the same type. During one period other agencies were hiring personnel away from
    the board as the water board was the lowest paid in its class. In my opinion,
    Marcia St. Martin is worth her weight in gold as it relate to her
    qualifications. Evidence of this same comment can be discovered if one was to
    watch tv aired council meetings that she attends to answer to city officials
    regarding issues related to this agency. In the news, New Orleans Sewerage
    & Water Board salaries are compared to 9 to 5, 5 day a week positions when
    Sewerage & Water Board positions are 365 at 24 hours per day, as well as
    emergency responses times. I myself have worked for this agency for more than
    30 years as a Supervisor with a base salary that folk start off with in today’s
    workforce. All of this brings me to ask, what are the hidden motives regarding
    the questions constantly being directed toward this agency’s?

  • Jerry Davis

    St.Martin brought nothing but mid-level administrative experience and a host of political connections during the last ‘nationwide search’ process which resulted in her promotion. The ‘Executive Director’ simply carries out the orders of the Board members and has very little discretionary authority unless the Board lazily delegates it. The far more critical post, as far as the safety of the New Orleans water and pumping system, is the Chief Engineer. That’s where the real money should go.

    Furthermore, it is self-serving and counterproductive for her as the Board spokesperson to declare a floor for her successor before a search process is even crafted. The Board could certainly choose to modify her job description and consider an entirely different pay hierarchy on the administrative side, as it should; the current structure is a wasteful duplication of the City Government structure, with its own Purchasing, Law, Personnel, etc, offices.

  • It’s true, I do have ulterior motives. I’d like to see minor fiefdoms eliminated from our government. There is no justification whatsoever for SWB to stand as a “quasi independent” body. All administrative functions should be brought under the Mayor’s office and an engineer should be the last decisionmaker before the mayor’s office. SWB project planning should be taking place in the same room that streets is doing their planning. They should be only one door away from special event planning and safety and permits. Technical representatives from Entergy, Cox, and ATT should be seated in that same room. We don’t have money to continue to dig up the street we just paved because SWB did not get the repairs and refurbishments completed in time.

    The waste, fraud, and abuse that is our heritage needs to be relegated to the past.

    I don’t mean to disparage you a bit Mr. Elloie. I do appreciate the 24/7 nature of your work, and I am grateful for your years of service at SWB. I don’t believe there is anything necessarily wrong with the workforce or even the individual managers, but the culture is in need of a makeover, and now is that time.

  • nickelndime

    I have lived in this city ## (too many) years. The services have gotten worse (not better) and the citizenry pays more for less. My water bill quadrupled in one month (ha!). When I called the SWB and spoke to a customer representative (another ha!) to register a complaint, the rep asked me if my toilet was running longer than usual…(I guess this is what one would call “troubleshooting” – I felt sorry for the woman because it felt as though she was reading from some sick script of sorts). This fiasco cost me a service call from a plumber (to determine if there was a leak – which there wasn’t). The bottom line is that no one from the SWB came out to do a second reading (as per my request – another ha!). I paid the 4x bill. It took 4 billing periods before my overpayments (for the misreading on SWB’s part) equalled out. Is this any way to run a city?!! And as far as Ms. Martin (with her 6-figure annual pension and her 6-figure deferred option “lump sum”), I would like to know what she is drinking, because it cannot be city tap water. This city looks like the movie “Snake Pit.” (it is an insane asylum). And yes, I think there is something in the drinking water. That is why I pay for bottled water. (another ha!)

  • ceasarelloie

    Dear Mr.Clark. You can’t imagine how right you are. I speak as a tax payer as well as an employee. There is MUCH waste in this agency. The problem is as I see it, the way that system was designed from it’s birth. I get the immediate impression that it was a political patronage gig from the start. This agency has more power than any city or state agency in Louisiana and that’s where the mess up comes in. At one time I understood that the office of municipal investigation was not allowed to investigate this agency. I am not sure if that has changed, but I would guess not. There is definitely a need for change as it relates to the Political involvement of it all. Chartered by the state and governed by the city civil service as I believe it’s written. I don’t think any one person should be given total control of an agency that has billions of dollars coming it’s way via government contracts. I have noticed that the water board is used to collect fees for other Utilities as well. To make a long story short, there is definitely a need for a change but I’m not sure the way is to put full control in the hands of ANY politician. I’ve read what people are saying here and unfortunately I can’t disagree with most in good conscious. The ulterior motives you mention are not those that I was thinking of. My thought is more of a political one.

  • How is it that the Jefferson Parish Water Department doesn’t have these issues?

    Do they, Jefferson Parish, not also work 24/7?

    And what about St Bernard Parish’s Water and Sewer Division?

    While I don’t know 100%, they, St. Bernard Water and Sewer Division seems to have fully recovered and they had far worse damage than Orleans Parish for Hurricane Katrina.

    Either way, it’s almost 8 years since Hurricane Katrina and Jefferson Parish and St. Bernard Parish found a way to get their streets, lights and sewerage fixed, why can’t Orleans Parish?

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  • ceasarelloie

    Dear Ah Contraire,
    This adult conversation can go on forever. While I can appreciate your perspective, please note that Jefferson is a Small Parish Operation and New Orleans is a MUCH larger operation. I am also disgruntled about some things related to the way the place is ran. But I DO like to keep it real as not to distort any facts about the issue. New Orleans operation is 100 years old and is falling apart and somewhat dangerous to it’s employees. Underground Pipes break all the time and their braking does not care about time. It could be Christmas Day or any other day. The feds put a mandate on this agency years ago that was never followed. That time has expired and here we are catching up. It’s unfortunate that there is not a better information plan in place to help the public understand what’s really going on. As I mentioned, people will always have opinions as they have that right. But at the same time, it might be a good idea to gather as much information as possible before conclusion.
    Again I plan not to continue this conversation as I am certain opinions will not change. THANK U……..

  • Incorporeal Matter

    Marcia St. Martin should be flushed down the toilet, just as certain other solid waste material. Her sense of entitlement breeds arrogance; and her arrogance… contempt! It is contempt that Marcia harbors and illustrates, towards the rate payers in this city.

  • How can Jefferson Parish be a small parish operation? Doesn’t Jefferson Parish have a lot more people than Orleans Parish?

    Nevertheless, while Orleans Parish is older, thus should it not have MORE EXPERIENCE, MORE KNOW HOW and also far more rainy day funds? Should not Orleans Parish be the EXPERTS of the WORLD in DRAINAGE? Doesn’t Orleans Parish have the French Quarter, Bourbon St, Jazz Fest, French Quarter Fest, Superdome and the Saints to pay for things?

  • ceasarelloie

    I would think you question regarding revenue is a good one but should be directed to the Mayor’s office. When the Sewerage & Water Board system was designed the city was not the size it is now. Carrolton area was actually a city of it’s own. New Orleans East did not pose a demand on the system. Kind of like growing out of a pair of shoes. In the old days people replaced the soles of the shoe as it was more economic. In addition,previous Politicians did not keep up as they ignored the mandate of the Federal Government. About seven years ago, New Orleans City hall representatives went to Holland to see how they do it. When they got there they discovered that the pumps they were using are designed by the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board. Here’s another un-noted fact. New Orleans has the best drainage system in the world. Below is a quote from an online publication. You can find it by goggling,” The Pumps of New Orleans”. Read below……

    But New Orleans has one of the best drainage systems in the world. Seventeen hours after the first raindrops hit on that May 3, the city was dry again. Subterranean canals big enough to drive trucks through moved storm runoff to larger open canals, where massive twelve—and fourteen-foot screw pumps lifted it over the levees and sent it out to sea. The pumps were invented by a New Orleans native named Albert Baldwin Wood seventy-nine years ago, and each one can move nearly half a million gallons of water a minute. The city has scores of these pumps in operation. Taken together, the pumps of New Orleans could suck the Thames dry at London.
    As mentioned earlier, folk will have their opinions as can be appreciated.
    In ending I state that the Geographic’s of this city has changed since the building of this agency. As a result the city must move forward to compensate.
    Thanks for your response…….
    NOTE: Jefferson Parish water treatment is small compared to New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board and likely easier to manage.

  • The way New Orleans is going, it can easily go BANKRUPT like Stockton, CA and Detroit, MI,

    The street lights still not being fixed after several promised deadlines pass.

    Not hiring police officers and all this spinning….

    Imagine if the city were to miss a payment? It would immediately be in the news.

    Is it true that around 40% of all city taxes go to pension funds…sounds like Detroit.
    Can someone speak or shed more light on this percentage of tax revenues to pension funds?

    Isn’t the SW&B a state agency? If the city were to go bankrupt, who pays the SW&B? Wouldn’t the SW&B and its pension fund have to stand in line just like all the other creditors?

    * And couldn’t the PENSION of the Head of the SW&B also stand in line just like all the other creditors?????

    If the city doesn’t have any money, then the city doesn’t have any money.

  • fwilliamadams

    Yeah, right. No one should make more than the Mayor because no one can possibly do a better job. Ms. St. Martin, let’s hope your replacement, regardless of their pay, actually earns it.