Is small special water district administrator getting paid too much?

Small district administrator getting huge salary

LOXAHATCHEE GROVES, Fla. - Frank Sawitzky enjoys a small town life in Loxahatchee Groves. It's growing, but he likes some of the changes being made.

"I'm really happy with the paving on C Road. Dust is cut nearly 80 or 90 percent," Sawitzky said.

He's not so happy with the area's drainage management.

"It just doesn't seem to flow as efficiently as it should," Sawitzky said.

These type of issues are handled by Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District Administrator Clete Saunier, who is paid about $175,000 a year, according to multiple board members.

"That's a lot of money for someone in this small of a community. I'm sure it may be high for other communities with more water, more people," Sawitzky said.

NewsChannel 5 went to work and checked it out.

Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District's area is home to about 3,500 people. It's surrounding district, Indian Trail Improvement District, is much bigger with a population of 38,104. Their district administrator is paid $158,000 per year.

The nearby Seminole Improvement District pays a management company about $10,000 a month for management services.

The South Indian River Water Control District, which serves about 7,000 people in the Jupiter Farms area, pays their manager of operations $91,000 per year.

Saunier's 2003 contract shows that his contract was set up for him to have a base salary of $80,000 with about $50,000 in benefits.  

Annually he is entitled to a three percent raise plus a cost of living adjustment, which some years gave him more than a six percent total raise.

In the past nine years, Saunier has received more than a 50 percent raise of his base salary.

"Wow that's a lot of money," Sawitzky said. "It may be for the size of this community. To take it from him, no. Hold off his wages for another year or two, perhaps."

Board Chairman David Demarois signed off on Saunier's 2003 contract and each amendment to it.

After first agreeing to an interview for this story Demarois later declined. His reason, "I don't want to make any misquotes."

On the phone he did say he stands behind Saunier's pay and work.

The current board Treasurer, John Ryan, wouldn't go on camera either, but did say over the phone, "The (board) had so many backlogged problems that it was a situation where to attract a competent person the board allowed Clete (Saunier) to protect himself with a contract that turned into more than what it was intended to be."

He later went on to say the board is in a position where it can now get Saunier's contract under control.

We reached out to Saunier, but he declined our interview saying he is in the middle of contract negotiations.

His salary will be discussed next week in a board meeting.

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