Millionaire O’Malley

The La Crosse County Board has passed a new 4-year contract for administrator Steve O’Malley, which I had correctly claimed was a fait accompli.

I was right, but the size and quality of the dissent was heartening. That in a minute.

The contract entitles O’Malley to annual increases in “deferred compensation” and other provisions like a guarantee of the same salary increase as other county managerial staff. Though he has reached the fourth “step” increase outlined in his previous contract of just over $180,000 a year, other fringes from his previous contract continue for the next four years.

The deferred compensation bonuses (which get socked away in a retirement account) add $1,000 annually to the $12,000 he currently receives. So by the time O’Malley, now 59 years old, hobbles across the finish line of this new contract, county taxpayers will be stacking $16,000 a year in bonuses into his account.

The La Crosse Tribune also reported a comment by O’Malley that he’ll be ready by the end of this contract to hang it up and retire to a leisurely life not so encumbered by the heavy burden of negotiating himself lavish new contracts and burning through tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on frivolous projects that Steve Doyle wanted. Obviously I dolled up the quote a bit.

The most interesting fact wasn’t reported by the media. During yesterday’s meeting, Supervisor Hubert Hoffman requested the total compensation of O’Malley under the new terms – including salary, retirement, benefits, and so on. The figure is just north of $230,000 a year.

That means Steve O’Malley will be paid by La Crosse County taxpayers nearly a million dollars over the four years of this new contract. Eight other fiscally conservative supervisors opposed going to closed session, others proposed amending the contract’s lavish terms (which Doyle protested), and in the end a respectable eight voted against the deal.

My esteemed partner in lambasting the misdeeds of lefty crooks has also weighed in, describing the failure of genuine economics to support the kind of pay O’Malley will be enjoying for the next four years. He makes a great point in saying that cronyism neuters market forces, rendering meaningless a free market argument in favor of deals like this.

O’Malley and Doyle last night championed a plot to nearly double the county’s indebtedness – for his part, Doyle (O’Malley’s benefactor) argued that the sky will literally fall and asbestos will rain down if supervisors didn’t approve $51 million in new borrowing.

For their $1 million in outlays to O’Malley, La Crosse County taxpayers got in return $51 million in new debt that we’ll still be paying off when a 79-year-old O’Malley is sipping Metamucil Screwdrivers on a modest yacht named “Thx Lax” on Lake Minnetonka in 2036.

When a ROI is eight figures with a negative sign in front of it, you know something doesn’t add up.

About the writer: Chris Rochester is editor in chief of Morning Martini. He’s an armchair politico, veteran of several campaigns, and communications specialist. He's the communications director for the MacIver Institute. Commentary here is strictly his own.