List of highest paid WNY public employees released

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A 44-page report, released by the Empire Center, details the top earners by region.

In Western New York, a City of Lackawanna police officer tops the list. But there’s more to this story than what meets the eye.

Paid with taxpayer dollars, nine of the 10 top highest paid public employees in Western New York are police officers and firefighters.

This new information was released by the Empire Center. Tim Hoefer is the Executive Director.

“Looking at payroll is certainly the first stop in saying, ‘Where do my tax dollars go?'” he said.

Mark Cellini, a former City of Lackawanna Police officer, who’s at the top of the list, has earned a substantial amount more than the others on the top 10 list. According to the report, Cellini was paid about $234,000 in one year.

“We often refer to it as your W-2 number, so this is what your W-2 would reflect at the end of the year,” Hoefer explained.

On face value, the number may seem shocking. But while digging for answers, News 4 learned the officer retired earlier this year, after 25 years on the force.

Police Captain Joe Leo said Cellini was bought out. He was paid comp time, vacation time and sick time. Cellini also received three years back pay, after a contract was settled with the city.

Leo insisted Cellini did not work overtime to build his pension.

“For every person like this police officer, who retired and got a big payout, there’s someone who only worked for the month of January and has 11 months on the payroll where they showed down, so this is the law of averages,” Hoefer said. “This isn’t the end all be all of the information but it’s certainly the starting point.”

Cellini’s income in 2014 was about $41,000 more than what Erie Community College President Jack Quinn made. Quinn was ranked the second highest earner at $192,500.

Leo himself ranks number 10 on the list. He, too, received three-years back pay after contract negotiations were settled. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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