Another Reason You Can't Trust Jim Righeimer *(Amended)
Last Thursday Orange County Register Watchdog reporter Teri Sforza published a column entitled "City posts shocker pay data", HERE, which emphasized the overtime pay racked up by members of the Costa Mesa Fire Department. Later that day she amended the article with a new title: "City posts shocker pay data: Transparent, or incendiary?" HERE. That subsequent article mentioned quotes from Orange County Employee Association Communication Director, Jennifer Muir.
In both articles Sforza, appropriately, made a big to-do about the fact that the City of Costa Mesa has made total compensation information - including pension costs - for ALL employees available online. In fact, that has happened for both the 2010 and 2011 calendar years.
NUMBERS EASY TO TWIST
Because that information is readily available, and because it's easy to misinterpret without some explanation, members of the City Council and some of their sycophants - like councilman wannabe Colin McCarthy, President of the council shill organization Costa Mesa Taxpayer's Association - have taken the raw data and twisted it to suit their personal agendas.
OVERTIME NECESSARY FOR PUBLIC SAFETY
Sforza points out that two members of the CMFD had TOTAL compensation in excess of $300,000 and one battalion chief racked up over $109,000 in overtime. Certainly, those numbers will rock you back, but they need to be taken in context. That overtime was necessary because the City Council has refused to permit new firefighters to be hired unless a change is made to their pension plan - a second tier. Only two firefighters were hired in 2011 according to Costa Mesa Firefighters Association President, Tim Vasin. As a result, in order to provide even minimal coverage with staffing levels well below the authorized strength, overtime has been essential.
THE REASON FOR THE NUMBERS...
And, according to Vasin from Sforza's article, the City refused to permit the overtime hours to be shown on their spreadsheet, HERE. According to the article, Vasin says the annual average is 3,300 hours on duty - 63.5 hours per week per firefighter. Those are big numbers - around 50% more hours worked than you would expect with full staffing.
Then, on Saturday, March 10th, Sforza wrote ANOTHER article on this subject, titled, "Righeimer: Huge O.T. bill is firefighters' fault", HERE. It was peppered with inflammatory comments by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer.
In that article Righeimer - still fuming because the contracts with each employee association don't expire until the end of his term - gripes that the firefighter's overtime is entirely due to the contract requirement for minimum staffing levels. He went on to say, "They could do the job with six people per shift, but they want to do it with 18 or 19 people because that's what their contract says." He goes on to say, "That contract is a political document. It basically says, 'We don't care how many people you actually need to do the job - you have to hire more.'"
*NOTE: When the print version of this article came out on 3/13/12 the "six people" comment by Righeimer had been deleted. It's gone from the online version, as well. According to Teri Sforza, in response to my inquiry, "Mr. R. was misquoted." That's it.
YOU PICK THE DESCRIPTION...
And there you have it. Righeimer is either stupid, ignorant, an angry, frustrated political opportunist who will do or say ANYTHING to get his way on issues - or, maybe he's just a liar. Some might say all of the above. This man - a carpetbagger who saw Costa Mesa as ripe pickin's for his personal political agenda - slithered into town almost six years ago and has been the focus of controversy, turmoil and distrust ever since. The fact that he might actually think that the residents, businesses and visitors to Costa Mesa would be properly served by six firefighters per shift - that would be one firefighter per fire station per shift - tells you how little he actually understands or cares about public safety.
GUTTED THE CMPD
Of course, he demonstrated that ignorance last year when he demanded - and got - the Costa Mesa Police Department staffing reduced to 126 plus 5 temporary officers instead of meeting the barest of minimum staffing recommended by both the expensive consultant the city hired and Interim Chief Steve Staveley. We are down from 164 two years ago.
During a recent study session he plucked millions of dollars out of the air and plugged them into a 5-Year Plan spreadsheet without giving any indication of how he arrived at those numbers. Undoubtedly, come budget time those fabricated numbers will become part of the budget process and the city management team will have to figure out how to cover those fabrications. The answer will be few people - that's where the money is. And, oh, yes - that spread sheet is STILL not available on the city web site for public viewing.
YOU JUST CAN'T TRUST HIM
It is that kind of arrogant, ignorant, capricious behavior that should make every voter in this city question the motives behind Jim Righeimer's Charter scheme. If he ever gets the power available to him in that Charter, like General Sherman marching through Georgia during the Civil War, he and his cronies will destroy this fine city, then move on and never look back. You just can't trust him, period.