Water, sewer chief's pay ranks 2nd among government workers in region

Bob Bauder
| Friday, May 15, 2015, 12:18 p.m.

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority's executive director became the second-highest-paid government employee in the region under a three-year contract approved Friday.

The PWSA board voted unanimously to hire James L. Good, 51, as its permanent executive director at an annual salary of $240,000.

Good, who has served as interim executive director for three years, can earn an annual 10 percent bonus by meeting performance goals, which will be negotiated.

Christina Cassotis, who heads the Allegheny County Airport Authority and makes $295,000 per year, has the only salary eclipsing Good's.

He will make more than any other employee of Pittsburgh or its authorities, including Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald combined. Peduto is paid $107,500 a year, and Fitzgerald earns $89,999 annually.

PWSA board Chairman Alex Thomson said members agreed on the salary based on what job search consultants reported were market rates for similar positions across the country.

“They gave us a salary range,” Thomson said. “We based it on actual negotiations: ‘What would it take to get you to want to come to Pittsburgh?' We understand that it's not an insubstantial amount.”

Meanwhile, customers are paying more each year for PWSA service.

The board in 2013 approved rate increases that hiked average residential bills by $4.32 per month in 2014 and $1.94 per month this year. Bills are scheduled to increase on average by $1.26 in 2016 and 77 cents in 2017.

Peduto, who said he supports the decision to hire Good, said every city authority director receives higher pay than he does.

“We have to be able to be within the game plan of what the range of salary is,” the mayor said.

Thomson said Good's experience was the deciding factor in his hiring, calling it the “most important decision that this board has made in its tenure.”

“He's been living the challenges that PWSA is facing for three years,” Thomson said.

PWSA operated with temporary directors since 2010 when Michael Kenney resigned during a scandal over a water line insurance program. The authority received criticism for risky bond investments, the amount of its debt, poor customer service and neglected infrastructure.

Good said his top priorities include improving PWSA's financial outlook and customer service and its sewage infrastructure through environmentally friendly means.

“It's been a tough three years,” he said. “I think the next three years will be full of challenges.”

Good will resign as an employee of Veolia North America effective June 1 when he starts in his post.

PWSA hired Veolia in 2012 to help improve authority performance. The board reduced the annual fee by $300,000 because of Good's hiring.

Thomson said the Veolia contract will end in December after the company assists with the hiring of a chief financial officer and chief operating officer. Veolia provides those services and its contract will be reduced with each hire, he added.

Good, whose permanent home is Oakland, Calif., said he plans to relocate to Downtown Pittsburgh. He has 25 years of experience in the water business and served as executive vice president and vice president of Veolia Water's West Region and vice president of corporate communications and marketing for the California Water Service Co. He has a bachelor's degree in government from Cornell University and a master's degree in finance from Golden State University.

Board members called Good the best of four finalists. The candidates were directors of sewer and water authorities from across the country, they said. The board conducted a national search during four months and vetted candidates through two committees, one made up of board members and one of outside professionals, Thomson said.

PWSA, which serves 300,000 customers in Pittsburgh and surrounding communities, is an independent authority. The mayor appoints its board.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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