Beach and Park lawyer outearns city manager
By Steve Plunkett
The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District’s longtime attorney has almost tripled his district pay by taking on additional jobs there, earning a cumulative $1.5 million in five years.
In all, Arthur Koski wears three part-time hats: lawyer, the district’s contract administrator and its executive director.
“It’s very difficult because I do have other clients,” he said. “It’s a seven-day job now.”
Koski is paid $11,000 a month for his legal advice, or $132,000 a year — more when he is involved in litigation. He also maintains a private law practice downtown specializing in municipal litigation.
In mid-2010 he recommended that district commissioners hire him as the contract administrator to build four sports fields at the city’s DeHoernle Park after the original project engineer relocated to Jacksonville. Commissioners hired him on the spot. He’s paid $9,000 a month, or $108,000 a year, for those duties.
The DeHoernle project, originally estimated to cost $23 million, was completed on time for $15 million. Koski, who has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering as well as a law degree, now oversees a $2.7 million project at the district’s Swim and Racquet Center on St. Andrews Boulevard.
In July 2012 district commissioners tapped Koski as their interim executive director when Robert Langford retired. He started out at $5,000 a month and was given a raise in 2013 to $7,500 a month. As executive director he manages a budget that will top $50 million in the coming year.
Langford was paid $160,000 annually plus benefits. But Koski is considered an independent contractor, so none of his three jobs at the district comes with benefits.
Commissioners say Koski earns every penny.
“I think everyone is pleased with Art’s service,” District Chairman Robert Rollins said. “He knows the history of what we have done. He’s very helpful.”
Koski began giving the district legal advice in 1978, four years after the district was created. Commissioners value his institutional knowledge as much as his legal expertise.
“He’s got almost 40 years’ experience with the district in one capacity or another,” said Commissioner Steve Engel. “I think Art has been an asset.”
Commissioners say they compared salaries of comparable positions when deciding what to pay Koski.
“If you break that [total compensation] down into its component parts, he’s actually at or below scale for each of the duties that he performs,” Commissioner Earl Starkoff said.
In the Aug. 30 district election, candidate Craig Ehrnst complained that an auditor’s report showed Koski earned $432,000 in fiscal 2014 alone.
“There’s no interviewing for anyone. There should be a process to interview people,” Ehrnst, a corporate treasurer, said at a candidate debate Aug. 11.
But Koski said later the auditor mistakenly added contract administration fees from the previous year to the total and quickly asked for a clarification.
“Based on our audit, the total paid to the Interim Executive Director for services rendered during the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2014, was $330,000,” auditor Racquel McIntosh, of Grau and Associates, wrote in an Aug. 18 letter to commissioners. “Reference to total compensation of $432,000 … was for services rendered … over a period of time and not one fiscal year.”
By way of comparison, Boca Raton City Manager Leif Ahnell’s salary is $240,418 plus pension contributions and other benefits. City Attorney Diana Grub Frieser gets $235,383 plus.
Not all the Beach and Park District candidates were concerned about Koski’s paychecks.
Starkoff said Koski is paid “a lot less than what he’s worth.”
Political newcomer John Costello, a CPA, said, “Just because someone makes a lot of money doesn’t mean they didn’t earn it.”
Koski has been a lightning rod for complaints from city officials, culminating in City Council member Robert Weinroth’s demand in March that he be replaced with a full-time executive director.
In May, Koski said he would step aside as interim director on Oct. 1, the start of the new budget year, but was persuaded to stay until January, when commissioners choose their chairman for the calendar year.
Though Koski’s earnings will drop $90,000 a year when he quits the interim job, he said he will be “very happy” when Briann Harms, his assistant director, takes over those duties. He hopes commissioners keep him as contract administrator.
“It’s something that I enjoy very much,” Koski said.
Three jobs, three paychecks
Arthur Koski receives different amounts for being the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District’s attorney, executive director and contract administrator.
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Legal services $93,000 $144,750 $132,000 $132,000 $132,000
Exec director $15,000 $71,250 $90,000 $90,000 $90,000
Contract admin $108,000 $108,000 $108,000 $108,000 $108,000
Totals $216,000 $324,000 $330,000 $330,000 $330,000