August 6, 2010

City manger compensation in LA County 2009

Well this is a bit of an eye popping chart but again hats off to the LA Times for compiling this info so quickly in light of the Bell scandal. Shame on you Press Telegram for not even trying to act like a real news paper. I guess all they can handle are High School sports scores. And shame on you local radio stations for just adding "mindless blabber" to the airwaves and adding nothing like this to the substance of the debate.

One again our good friend [long time Lakewood City manager] Howard Chambers comes out near the top (18th out of 77 cities reporting so far, including Bell) of the stack and shockingly is paid more ($2,000 that the Long Beach city manager Pat West who has many many more employees to manage than Howard. Even more than comparatively wealthy Cerritos. So why the disparity in pay even at such shocking high levels? Again the pay does not seem to be based on anything concrete. Its up to the city council. Anytime you have high paying jobs where salary is based on a group of people deciding it you usually have a situation where there is a "you scratch my back Ill scratch yours". In Howard's case its likely due to the fact he is one of the longest reining city managers in history (but that problem is for another column) In the case of CEO compensation it comes down to a "gentleman's club" mentality of people who consider themselves privileged and entitled to such high pay. The CEO "cons" the board of directors at the company to give him a high compensation package as other CEO's like him get X dollars at other companies. So it s a "race to the top" sorta speak not based on any hard and fast figures. Its based on "well Bob over at  X city gets Y salary so I should get that too" Also what most people fail to realize is that most boards are comprised of either former or current CEO's or top executes of other companies. So when the board gives a CEO a high compensation package they knew when back at their company what comes around goes around. Its a wink and nod scenario. Nothing is written down its just understood.That is likely what was going on in Bell. The Bell city manager allowed (or enabled) the council to pull this caper off so all had to get a share of the pie (the inflated property tax scheme dollars). You approve my salary Ill approve yours. All nice and tidy. And the voters were never the wiser.

Of course this monkey business is fine in the private sector as we are not forced to pay those salaries. In government however not only are we forced to pay these salaries but we are forced to pay them until the death of the employee. Chamber will likely retire well before us poor schleps in the private sector (10 years or more) and be paid benefit likely close to 95% of his current salary. For life. This of course includes lavish Cadillac heath care for life. What do you think that will cost you. You get the picture. Chambers will be laughing all the way to the back while you private sector fools work to 67 to fund his retirement. (Oh don't forget CalPERS, the big pension plan which will be paying the Bell pensions, lost like 40% of its value last year and is looking to you the taxpayer to make up for Wall Street's plunder of its risk investments) You private sector people ask "well why don't taxpayers back fill what I lost in my 401k for the last 3 years?" Well my friend its because you are not part of the elite ruling class of local government employees. Sorry..... lol

Pay in government is never truly, objectively performance based so that is why government city employees are so lacking in enthusiasm and not motivated. Why work hard to serve the taxpayer if you can get the same pay regardless? One thing that LAAG fears is that this LA Times chart will do is force managers and others, like Pat West, to rush into the Mayors office and say "How the hell is Howard Chambers getting paid more than me for running such a puny city like Lakewood?"  Oh I am sure we will hear all the same lavish praise as was heaped on  the Bell City manager. "Oh he is such a great guy and a rocket scientist to boot...he saved us from a Tsunami...blah blah blah" Yea right. So if you pay them $50,000 year less the city will somehow suffer a worse fate? Give me a break. None of this can really be justified. But its like the CEO's in many respects. The company goes down the toilet and the CEO leaves with a "golden parachute" for all his great work. (in the public sector the golden parachute is the pensions as in Bell's case) Its not pay for performance. Its pay based on privilege. And with taxpayer dollars scarce now, its time for that to end. Just like Wall St. is getting sacked now by the Fed's. Time to end the local government shakedown. And if you think LAAG is crazy read this.

Oh one last funny observation. The LA Times article gives links to contact the city managers via email directly. Most complied. Howard of course does not want to list his email like other city mangers. Similar to the Lakewood city council who prefers to not place that info on the website as it fosters direct contact by voters (an issue LAAG raised long ago). Well here it is for those of you that want it:  When you email him ask him what all his deputies and assistants make and let LAAG know what kind of a response you get. lol.

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