San Diego City Council accused of over-sized pay raise

Car allowance added back in

On April 21, local attorney Bob Ottilie went to the city council meeting with a Personnel Department list of salaries made by city employees last year. That day the council would reverse a decision it had made the previous week to increase its members’ total pay package by $8499 to $93,485, starting in January 2009.

According to the salary list, over 3200 city employees received pay (some amounts included overtime) in 2007 that was higher than the city council base salary of $75,386. Pointing to the list, Ottilie observed that 1431 police officers, more than 80 percent of the force, received more than city council members’ base pay. Councilmembers last year were also paid less than 746 firefighters, 31 lifeguards, and 16 librarians.

Councilmembers receive an additional car allowance of $9600, bringing their total pay package to $84,986, their taxable income. Even when the comparison is based on the higher figure, says Ottilie, councilmembers earn less than 1600 city employees.

Ottilie is a member of the Salary Setting Commission. According to the city charter, the commission has the responsibility every even-numbered year of recommending by February 15 the salaries of the mayor and city council members. This year, after three months of studying pay in other cities and the business world, as well as the city council’s duties, the Salary Setting Commission proposed that the council add $50,000 to its members’ salaries over two years. Commission members reasoned in part that the increase is needed to attract highly qualified people from the private sector.

“This is not a pay raise,” Ottilie said when he addressed the council. “When I worked on the Civil Service Commission, we used to call it a salary adjustment. What you do is, over time, when circumstances change and you determine that the position isn’t being paid what it should be, you don’t look at inflation or cost of living or other factors, you readjust the salary to the fact that now you’re working 80 hours a week and you’re making every significant decision in the city.” In Ottilie’s opinion, “We now have a strong city council form of government.”

“The 10 percent increase you decided on last week,” Ottilie continued, “was over four years, because you didn’t get a raise two years ago. That’s 2.5 percent per year at a time when the mayor is calling for an increase in the budget of 13 percent.”

Yet on April 15, the San Diego Union-Tribune ran a front-page story calling the increase a 24 percent raise. Writer Matthew Hall suggested that with the council’s pay increase, two park supervisor positions could have been funded. The following day, a Union-Tribune editorial railed against the council’s 24 percent increase.

Returning to Bob Ottilie’s council address, however, the attorney noted that over 3000 of the employees who make more than city council members work under the mayor. “There is at a minimum,” he said, “an appearance here that what the mayor wants is to keep his part of the city strong and weaken, year by year, your position relative to [his] office. [The city council salary] issue is going to be demagogued, it’s easily demagogued, and it’s now been demagogued by the Union-Tribune in their news pages as well as their editorial pages. It’s been misrepresented in the mayor’s office as well.”

The Union-Tribune’s 24 percent story, Ottilie tells me later, “campaigned” against the city council pay increase. And that, he says, is allied with the paper’s ongoing editorial attack on the body. “The fact that the city charter requires the salary issue to be brought to the city council is never mentioned in the article,” says Ottilie. “Second, the initial salary recommendation came from a commission that looked at the subject over three months. We had more meetings and looked at more issues and more numbers than any commission in recent history. Hall makes a vague reference in his story to a voluntary commission but never even mentions the Salary Setting Commission’s name or role in the process.

“Our commission told the council, ‘Keep your car allowance and add on $50,000 over two years.’ Then, when the council met, [Councilman] Ben Hueso said, ‘Let’s do this instead. Let’s get rid of the car allowance but move it over to salary.’ They’re not making a dime more when they do that, right? Then they raised [the total package] 10 percent. That’s how it was phrased in the meeting — 10 percent. The motion passes five to three. Then Hall runs a story that says the council gave itself a 24 percent pay raise that was only slightly less than was recommended by a volunteer commission. But the amount was only [about $8500].

“The story did not mention either that the commission said the council should not determine its own salaries, a recommendation never made by any previous commission. The council sent that recommendation back to the rules committee. There’s no reference to that in the story,” says Ottilie.

“But the thing that jumped out at me was that Hall said, by comparison, the raise would require the elimination of two park supervisors. How many times has the Union-Tribune reported that a fire department battalion chief knocking down over $200,000 causes the elimination of a park supervisor? And it’s not true of the council pay increase anyway. The increase will come out of established council money and won’t affect the rest of the city’s budget.

“But the story,” Ottilie went on, “is a campaign piece against the increase. It could just as easily have said in the third paragraph, ‘By comparison, the raise would still leave 1600 people in the city, including 2 librarians and 17 lifeguards, making more than the council.’ Or it could have said, ‘By comparison, similar management positions in the private sector pay between $800,000 and $1.3 million.’ And then he says, ‘Nobody else is getting raises.’ Bullshit, nobody’s getting raises. July 1, they’re going to pay firefighters 5 percent more. And they just had a raise three years ago. The police are going to get 6 percent.”

During the April 21 council meeting, Fifth District councilman Tony Young picked up where Ottilie left off. Young has been the only councilmember to say forthrightly that he needs the salary increase. In commenting on the council’s intention to reverse the increase of the week before, Young took aim at leadership. “Folks will look at this as a weak council,” said Young. “If the media becomes a little disappointed or writes a nasty article about the council, then the council and its leadership seem to acquiesce and bend that way. If the mayor decides that the increase is a bad idea and wants something that’s in his interest, then it seems that the leadership of this council will bend to that will.

“We should not be guided by what the mayor thinks is a bad idea. That’s not how we should make our decision. The perception then is that the mayor says we can’t do it, so we can’t do it. That’s absolutely contradictory to what we should be doing. We should be doing what we think is right.

“I think the [council’s reversal] is not what’s best for the city; it’s what’s best for individuals. We have people running for city attorney on this council. I won’t be any part of it, and I won’t reject the Salary Setting Commission’s recommendation today,” said Young.

“It’s pretty clear the mayor understands the concept of paying individuals well for the job that they do. If you look at the leadership in that mayor’s office right now, most of those people make much more than people here. It could be in the best interests of an incumbent mayor for our salaries to be low.”

I take a look at the Personnel Department’s employee salary list. Councilman Young seems to have a point. In the mayor’s office, the city’s chief operating officer earns $207,309. His assistant earns $152,315. Two deputy chief operating officers make $150,010. The chief financial officer, $150,010.

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Practically speaking; each and every city council member knew the salary when they campaigned for the job.

Practically speaking one does not need much of a salary because the office is used as a stepping stone to a more lucrative career as a lobbyist.

Practically speaking; a high salary is never touted for public service. It is not needed to "attract good people." Do gooders have a long history of ignoring salary to do, good.

I respect Bob but he's barking up the wrong tree salary wise.

I agree with realnews.

We should actually LOWER the salary, for two reasons;

1- They just do not deserve it based on the performance;

2- A lower salary would attract people who want to fix the Cities problems instead of lining their own pocket.

There are TONS of qaulified applicants who could do a better job than the people we have there now-and for less money.

In addition, this is the same nonsense talking points the FD and PD use, "we need to pay more to attract better people".

PD and FD jobs get 100 applicants for every job opening (same with K-6 school teachers), and out of those 100 applicants 75% could do the job competently-there is just no need to pay more for these jobs.

Most of these folks have at least a million in assets anyway. They are millionaires and want even more. Look at Scott Peters... he married into millions. He's like a bored husband looking for work because our city doesn't demand enough from these city council jobs and som much easier than real work like practicing law.

Before we pay them more, let's demand more results. This getting a 25% pay raise for business as usual is just plain stupid. At least overpaid CEO's get some results, these clowns haven't shown any real leadership or fixed any problems yet.

Before we pay them more, let's demand more results. This getting a 25% pay raise for business as usual is just plain stupid.

Exactly! . . .

BTW, as to Scott Peters, I don't think Peters could litigate a real legal case of substance on his own.

He does not have the experience or brain power.

I thought becomnig a representative of the people was suppose to be about Public Service? Our founding fathers strongly suggested this concept and then RETURNING to "private" life as a regular citizen. I too agree with the some of the comments posted above. All of these people knew what the salary is before they took the office. But few of us knew of all the perks, some now disclosed, or other perks which are under the table. I also note if we were to consider "job performance" of serveral currrent council members, none deserve a "wage adjustment" let alone a raise. Finally, these folks have egos, most are now so grossly inflated their idea of self importances should worry all of us.

Municipal bankruptcy law is covered by Chapter 9 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code and related provisions. The purpose is to give municipal debtors a breathing spell through the automatic stay of creditors and to restructure municipal debt through formulation of a repayment plan. Forcing a repayment plan on nonconsenting creditors requires the City to resort to the federal power to impair contractual obligations under the Contract Clause.

Question: If forcing a longer period of repayment how does this change anything of substance? The debt must still be paid. The City has changed its retirement system so the excesses have been eliminated for new employees thus reducing future liabilities. So in the long term this will resolve itself, by attrition. A trial court has rules the city my pay its obligations too. While an appellate court may overrule the lower court on this matter, the chances of this happening seem to be non-existent.
I’m just wondering does taking the City into the Federal Bankruptcy Court mean lining the pockets of even more attorneys with taxpayer dollars?

New employees, the FD and PD, the ones that milk the system the most and bear the most responsibility for the deficit, have not had their pensions changed. They are still on the 3%@50 scam. That is IMHO the biggest reason for the deficit.

Also, under a CHP 9 BK, the existing contracts would be wiped out, it would not be an extension of time to repay the same amount. The old contracts would be wiped clean and the City would start from scratch.

Simple solution would be to force the entire work force into social security-if it is good eough for the working poor and middle class it is good enough for the City.

This retire at age 50 nonsense has to go anyway you slice it.

You say they, the contracts, would be wiped out, but my interpretation is; MAY be wiped out but probably would be restructure considering the City's VERY SUBSTANTIAL assets. Isn't it the Courts responsibility to find balance and do a little arm twisting to/with all parties?

I'm not so sure your idea of social security will fly. To make it work wouldn't all agencies need to do the same. Seems to me employees would gavitate to best employment terms possible. That seems only natural to me.

What do you think is a fair age for public safety workers to retire? Before you say, consider the actual work. In other words, is it safe for both, worker and the citizens. A simple example is the military. If you enter at 18 you are eligible to retire at 38. Many don't. But I believe the military understands the actual work is a "young person's" job. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me to have 60 years olds in firefighter or police officer in front line positions. I think they'd be more of a hazard. Also, I read the arguments before... there are desk jobs they can do. But just how many desk jobs can there be BEFORE it starts impacting the performance objective of the respective agency.

Yep, Please stop w/ the propaganda about how poor our council members are--their pensions will more than make up for any $ they feel they have been slighted.

This election is critical to winning our city back from special interests. For the 1st time in history we can see the $$. A non-profit, Center for Policy Initiatives has put in all the data under "follow the money" for public to access. We have to boot Sanders and keep Aguirre if we want ANY chance at ending this corruption. See the money for yourself.

Fumbler-you voting for Obama 08???

If you dont you will be voting for a loser buddy!

BTW-where you been at??

Were vacationing at Chino or San Quentin the last few months????

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