Costa Mesa Employee Compensation Report
As I mentioned briefly in an earlier post, the 2012 Costa Mesa City Employee Compensation Report is now available for viewing on the city web site, HERE. And, if you want to compare it to the 2011 report you can view that one HERE.
MISLEADING USE OF "FACTS"
Some will recall that certain members of the City Council went berserk when this listing was first produced last year. They and many of their sycophants - in an election year - misrepresented the numbers to pillory "greedy union employees", always failing to mention that the reason many of the persons they criticized were members of public safety organizations and the council at that time refused to permit the leaders of the Police and Fire organizations to staff at reasonable levels. That refusal led to mandatory overtime in those organizations to provide adequate staffing for our safety, which pushed individuals up the compensation list. Many times now-mayor Jim Righeimer referred to a "firefighter earning $350,000" - a lie of the first magnitude. He was referring to Fire Battalion Chief Bill Kershaw, who was at the top of the 2011 list because he worked more than 4000 hours during that year. And, that "$350,000" number included almost $70,000 in pension costs - not dollars he put into his pocket. And, Righeimer conveniently rounded the numbers up - Kershaw's number, including the pension costs, was actually $346,167.60. Kershaw is #2 on this year's list, at $296,733.97 but you can be sure it will come out as "$300,000" as critics flap their jaws on this issue.
Another fact conveniently neglected was that much of the overtime that shows up in the public safety staff numbers overtime attributed to instances where firefighters were sent to wildfire locations as part of our mutual aid agreements and we are reimbursed for that cost. Similarly, when members of the police department work overtime to provide contracted support for the Orange County Fair those costs are also reimbursed to the city.
NEW FIRE STRUCTURE WILL SAVE MONEY
The much-delayed Fire Department restructuring plan proposed by Interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold, based on the presentations made months ago, will save a lot of dollars. We hope that plan, one we're told is being fine-tuned for presentation at yet another study session, will finally be approved and implemented.
FOLKS AT THE TOP
As you scroll down the list you'll find Police Chief Tom Gazsi at the top - a bargain by anybodys estimation. You'll also see outgoing Interim Director of Economic and Development Services and Deputy CEO Peter Naghavi, who's numbers include almost $50,000 cash out for unused leave and vacation in anticipation of his departure this year. He was supposed to depart at the end of the year, but agreed to stay to help select his replacement and aid in the transition.
LOOK AT "OVERTIME HOURS"
Here's an interesting exercise for you. This year the report includes an "Overtime Hours" column. As you scroll down the list you'll find fourteen (14) of the first 22 persons listed show more than 1,000 overtime hours. Continue to scroll and you'll see that nearly half of the top 41 persons listed - 20 - show overtime hours greater than 1,000 hours. Those hours represent time spent on the job that most would prefer to spend with their families. The overtime is necessary to keep us safe.
CEO Tom Hatch, during his comments last Tuesday at the council meeting, addressed the reduced staffing levels by observing we have more non-sworn staff today than we did previously. Well, most of those positions were ones that had been canceled during the budget crunch, then re-filled recently. Those folks, as wonderful and dedicated as they are, cannot go out and snatch up criminals like the shotgun bandit earlier this week. They can't go out and work effectively with the multiple gangs in our city. They can't jump into a patrol car or onto a motorcycle to snag DUI offenders. They won't be out patrolling the illicit massage parlors mentioned at the last council meeting or working the "problem motels" in our city.
The Police Department had, just a few years ago, 164 sworn positions. Today the authorized strength is 131, which includes 5 "grant officers", the funding for which was from federal grants for only 5 years. The last City Council - the core of which is still in control - ignored their own consultants and former Interim Chief Steve Staveley, both of whom said the bare minimum staffing level should be 136 - 140 would be better - and slashed the budget to its current level. And, of course, they disbanded the A.B.L.E. helicopter program - the model for municipal airborne law enforcement organizations throughout the country. Are we safer today? Of course not! The year end crime statistics, HERE, clearly demonstrate that fact.
OUR "JIFFY LUBE GUY"
So, as you scroll down the Employee Compensation List and questions arise, just take a deep breath and think about what those numbers really represent. Before you force your blood pressure off the charts because Billy Folsom - #315 on the list - earned $82,000 last year before he retired, understand that you're looking at 30 years of service and a man who could keep every vehicle in the fleet running. This is the man referred to derisively by Righeimer and his sycophants as a "Jiffy Lube Guy." Of course, that derision has nothing to do with the fact that Folsom was an articulate outspoken critic of the council's outsourcing scheme (he says, tongue in cheek).
In case you're interested, you can find the City Council members listed way, way down the list. Wendy Leece is #461, with a total comp. number of $32,386.28. Gary Monahan is just below her at #462 with the same dollars. Steve Mensinger is at #464 with at total comp. of $31,590.63 and departed Eric Bever is at 466 and $31,106.78. Mayor Jim Righeimer is at #530 with a total comp. number of $1,322.07.
COIN - TRANSPARENCY OR A CLUB?
The City is about to launch negotiations with the General Employees - the members of the Costa Mesa City Employees Association (CMCEA) - immediately. Their contract expires in a week. We'll find out very soon just how Mayor Pro Tem Mensinger's COIN ordinance, HERE, is going to work and whether it will facilitate openness and timely negotiations or become an anchor and a club used to flog employee organizations into submission. I'm hoping for the former.
Have a great weekend as you peruse the Compensation report. I'll look forward to your observations.