(1/7/2013, Los Alamitos, by JM Ivler) As I prepared for the Special City Council Meeting on Monday I was doing research and I came upon some startling facts that deserved a separate post rather than a comment hidden in another thread.
To start, I want to make clear that none of the information I have came from anything but a public source and can be located on-line at any time (see footnotes). Additionally, while there will be discussion of specific individuals under the employ of the City of Los Alamitos, nothing in this post is in any way an indication of any wrongdoing by the city employee.
During the last City Council Meeting when the contract was on the Consent Calendar Mr. Edgar stated a number of times that these employees have given so much. That they worked without a contract. That they have forgone increases in salary. That these were the reasons that the contract had to be done, and had to be done without specific discussion about the contract.
As my comments in other places have indicated, I didn’t question the statements that Mr. Edgar made, but was more interested in rightsizing the City of Los Alamitos. As I indicated in those posts, I didn’t believe that the City of Los Alamitos needed to pay $170,000+ for a City Manager, and for the most part I was proposing that we not do the contract and take this opportunity to focus on what we wanted the City to be, and how to best set it up to serve the community from a staffing and budget perspective.
As others have pointed out, we also needed to do a detailed audit of city funds before we committed to a 9% salary increase.
So, as I was preparing for my presentation tomorrow (getting all my facts straight for my three minutes during the public comments of the agenda item) I was shocked by what I found.
In 2009 Ms. Avery was compensated under $125,091 as the Recreation and Community Service Director (hereafter Director of Rec). In 2010 the Director of Rec position was under $124,980. In 2011 the Director of Rec Compensation was $134,877. In 2012 Ms. Avery left that position and moved to City Manager that was an increase to a reported $170,000+.
So we know that from public records in 2011 the Director of Rec position increased in compensation by an excess of $9,897. And that the increase in 2012, based on the reported $170,000+ would be an additional $35,123.
Again, I want to stipulate that there is NOTHING done “wrong” by the employee. Compensation negotiations and the terms and conditions associated to such negotiations between the Director of Rec and the then City Manager are private (as are the negotiations between the City Council and the City Manager and City Clerk; both of whom report directly to the City Council), but this does tend to not be in line with the sacrifices we were told by Mr. Edgar that were made by City Employees.
In 2009 the Community Development Director (hereafter ComDev Director) was compensated $125,091. In 2010 the ComDev Director compensation was $124,980. In 2011 the ComDev Director compensation was $136,311. There is no public record of the 2012 ComDev Director’s compensation.
What we do show is an increase in compensation between 2010 and 2011 of $11,331. A 9% increase in compensation.
City Manager Position
In 2009 the public record doesn’t list a “City Manager”, but lists the highest compensated employee of the City of Los Alamitos as “Administrative Services Director”. Compensation for this position was $150,226. In 2010 the highest compensated employee was listed as “City Manager” with a compensation of $169,073. In 2011 the City Manager was compensated at $176,939.
These are increases of $18,847 and $7,866 respectively.
Not quite what we were told
At this point I was wondering what exactly was the sacrifice that we were being asked to foot the 9% increase for. It sure didn’t look like the increase was based on a flat compensation rate. And it looks like while all the rest of us were struggling with a recession the City was being very extravagant with it’s compensation policy.
I can see why Mr. Edgar and his majority were having a hard time creating balanced budgets. They were spending on compensation like drunken sailors (or drunken submariners as the case might be).
So, how the heck do you hide this kind of aggressive compensation in a down turned economy when we are trying to balance a budget? The January 31, 2011 Audit (CAFR) of the City of Los Alamitos by Diehl, Evans and Company states “the City’s tax revenues decline an additional 15% in fiscal year 2009-10″ [Letter of Transmittal Page iii] . So in a point of declining revenues, why in the world was the City of Los Alamitos increasing compensation? And more to the point, where was the City of Los Alamitos getting the budget to do it? Was Mr. Edgar and the majority making money rain down from the heavens?
I kept on looking for where we could come up with the money to cover these increases in compensation, and then I remembered the magic $75,000. For those of you who don’t remember, in the Solid Waste Franchise Agreement between the City and CDS, CDS assures that even if they do not have sales to cover it, they will pay the City of Los Alamitos $75,000 in sales tax every year (Yes, it has been determined that if the payment is NOT from the Franchise Tax Board it is NOT sales tax, and that question has been sent to the State of California Attorney General for review, but that’s fodder for another post, not this one).
Is it possible that the $75,000 is what is being used to compensate specific employees? That is the type of question a forensic audit of the City’s finances will uncover. But it is quite clear that the debate points that were utilized to attempt to develop sympathy for City employees so as to push the contract through by Mr. Edgar were not accurate based on the publicly released data.
In the footnote below, if you go to the URL, you will see that I was doing comparisons between three cities. Seirra Madre (10,948 residents), La Palma (15,596 resident) and Los Alamitos (11,474 residents). While there was a great deal of data and lots of difference, I found it interesting that all three cities had similar compensation levels of five to six million dollars while there were massive difference in the number of employees that covered. If you don’t want to visit the URL in the footnote I have included the 2011 comparison below.
Footnote: Public Compensation Disclosure was via: State Of California Controller http://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/ReportBuilders/Comparisons.aspx?ChartType=1&FiscalYear=2011&EntityID=233,308,310