Did Righeimer Violate The Brown Act?
Let me preface what I'm about to write by stating that I think Costa Mesa Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch is a great guy and has done a good job since replacing Allan Roeder a little more than two years ago - particularly under the circumstances under which he's had to operate. Not only should he be getting a raise per the terms of his contract, HERE, but he should be paid hazardous duty pay retroactively from the day he took the job!
RIGHEIMER LETS CAT OUT OF BAG
Late Thursday afternoon the Daily Pilot ran a commentary by Mayor Jim Righeimer (with some help from in-house spinmeister, Bill Lobdell) titled, "Tom Hatch is again leading by example". You can read it HERE. In that piece Righeimer tells us that Tuesday his council will vote on whether to give Hatch a "modest raise" for the excellent job he's done over the past two years. He also tells us that it's Hatch's "first pay increase" since taking over the job early in 2011. He also said, "it's well-earned and overdue". I guess so - he should have had a raise last year by the terms of his contract.
LOOKS LIKE A BROWN ACT VIOLATION!
Then he goes on to list for us what Hatch will gain and give up in this process, none of which has been discussed in any kind of an open session. All these conversations have taken place in closed sessions and, by divulging them to the public now, Righeimer may have violated the Ralph M. Brown Act, HERE, which is designed to create transparency in government and establishes some very inflexible rules about divulging confidential information. Section 54963 (a) of the Brown Act states, "A person may not disclose confidential information that has been acquired by being present in a closed session authorized by Section 54956.7, 54956.8, 54956.86, 54956.87, 54956.9, 54957, 54957.6, 54957.8, or 54957.10 to a person not entitled to receive it, unless the legislative body authorizes disclosure of that confidential information." To my knowledge there has been no authorization by the City Council to disclose this information - information it has not yet voted on. The Brown Act goes on to describe the nature of such violations and remedies, which could include disciplinary action and referral of the violation to a grand jury.
ALSO REPORTED IN THE REGISTER
And, Mike Reicher in the Orange County Register published an article discussing the very same information, and refers to a "report" issued by The City, but I'm unable to find such a report on The City web site. HERE is the link to Reicher's article, but you must be a subscriber to access it.
5% RAISE PLUS...
Righeimer tells us that Hatch will be getting a 5% raise - $10,368 - taking his annual salary to $217,656, and that he will also be receiving an increase in his car allowance from $477 per month to $650 per month AND a "technology allowance" of $250 per month. The raise and those other items will be retroactive to February 1st, 2013 - a curious date, since Hatch started his job in March of 2011. The way I calculate it - $
BUT IT COSTS HIM, TOO
Righeimer also tells us that Hatch is giving up some benefits, too. He's giving up half his sick days that will cost him over $5,000 per year. He's also giving up two weeks vacation that will cost him over $8,300 per year.
Further, he will see a reduction in his primary sick bank from 480 hours to 221, which potentially costs him over $27,000. Add that to the other two items above and he's giving up more than $50,000 - at least.
HOW MUCH IS THAT WORTH?
Earlier Righeimer told us that Hatch "volunteered" to pay the maximum legally allowed - 40% - to his pension, but we don't know what that actually means, dollar-wise.
BROWN ACT VIOLATION AND SHOWBOATING
Here's what I think... just my opinion, based on the facts as I understand them. I think Righeimer DID violate the Brown Act by divulging information that was the confidential content of closed session meetings. I think he did so in haste, on the one hand showboating to praise Hatch for his work and, on the other, set him up as a martyr, so he and his pals can point to Hatch's "sacrifice" when they finally begin negotiations with the General Employees. Those employee contracts expired the end of March, yet they just keep on doing their jobs...
WHAT ELSE CHANGED?
It will be interesting to see what other parts of Hatch's current contract were changed in this negotiation. Was, for example, his nine-months severance package modified? Why didn't he get a raise a year ago?
WHAT WILL THE EMPLOYEES THINK?
It will be VERY interesting to see what impact this commentary has on the morale of the employees of our city. I'm also curious about how this will be received within the community... we'll see, I guess.
CHECK IT, PLEASE
I'm exhausted, so please check my math and let me know what you think...