Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Deja Vu And Wendy, Too

To quote Yogi Berra, "This is like deja vu all over again."

At the Costa Mesa City Council meeting Tuesday night they co
nsidered Wendy Leece's request to review to items previously voted on earlier this month for possible re-hearing. Both were controversial at the time and each seemed to, in the mind of many around town, have been pushed through with much too much haste. The first item was the letter being sent to the Orange County Director of Emergency Services requesting his opinion about the use of private paramedic services in Costa Mesa. Presently it is forbidden. The second issue was the decision to proceed with issuance of 6-month "outsourcing" notices to over 200 city employees.


Without belaboring the issue, despite passionate pleas by many residents on each issue, both items were rejected on 3-1 votes. Eric Bever was, once again, a no-show. I guess we'll just have to keep track of his absences and work out some kind of pay-docking plan for him.


Speaking of Bever, former mayor Sandra Genis in the last council meeting regarding things Genis supposedly said. She quoted chapter and verse and demonstrated that Bever is among those on the dais who make up "facts" to suit themselves.

The bigger news for me Tuesday night was the presence of a reporter and photographer from the Washington Post at the council meeting. These gents, with whom I spoke briefly following the meeting, are here to do a story on the "pension" issue. Seems, because this is such a hot issue nationally, the reporter - Peter Whoriskey(updated) - decided he wanted to find someplace with a local angle and some kind of search spat out good old Costa Mesa! He and his photographer-sidekick have been in town a couple days and will file a story that will likely run sometime this weekend. NOTE: Go to this link for a list of Whoriskey's recent articles for the Washington Post - he's their "go to guy" on pension reform.


Why Costa Mesa, you ask? Two words - Jim Righeimer. Yep, our carpetbagging mayor pro tem has made such a fuss on this issue - both in his campaign for city council and since he was elected - that he's made our city a lightning rod on the issue and the tip of the spear in the battle orchestrated by the Orange County Republican Party to push pension reform locally.

If this has a vaguely familiar ring it's because another OC GOP tool, former mayor Allan Mansoor, used a similar hot-button topic - illegal immigration - to garner national attention to grease the skids for his re-election to the council in 2004. He proudly rode into office on the brown backs of the Latinos that make up more than a third of our municipal population.

This tim
e Righeimer similarly polarized our city by demonizing the municipal employees, particularly the members of the Costa Mesa Police Department, portraying them as greedy union louts, unworthy of the salaries and pensions negotiated in good faith with them by previous councils. In both cases it was shameless pandering compounded by lies.

Righeimer, of course, is much more dangerous to our city for a couple reasons. First, he's much smarter than Mansoor. Now that's not really saying much, but when it's coupled by Righeimer's tight relationship with high-level Orange County Republicans like my new Eastside neighbor Dana Rohrabacher (he was his campaign manager) and Scott Baugh (they shared office space) and the fact that he's managed to get his good buddy, Steve Mensinger, onto the council through a very effective stealth maneuver and we've got a recipe for some very bad-tasting municipal soup.


Second, Righeimer has no shame when it comes to telling lies in public. I reported his most recent - as far as I know - whopper from his interview with Wendy Leece on Fox News on Channel 11 Sunday night in a previous post - quoting him verbatim, just in case his legal beagle brother-in-law, Mark Bucher, decides to attempt to threaten me again with legal action.

Many of
you probably roll your eyes when, in the past, I've warned you not to take your eyes off these guys. It seems like every meeting they attend - and perhaps some public events, too - they demonstrate that they are not to be trusted. They are moving way, way too fast with this whole "outsourcing" scheme and our city is going to suffer because of it.

If they get their way, most city functions will be outsourced and Righeimer will be able to crow like the cocky little rooster he is that he's "solved" our pension problem. Yep, he'll solve it by simply getting rid of all the employees who would be eligible for pensions.

I'm still trying to figure out why we are entrusting the financial future of our city to a council dominated by a couple guys who have a recent history of business failure behind them. How does that make any sense? They say they want to run the city like a business. Well, I say, if that's the case how about picking folks to run it that actually know how to make a business a success! I don't think we're going to be well-served by a couple unemployed party hacks eager to show their OC GOP pals how to meet their objectives without doing the heavy lifting - negotiating in good faith with the employees who make this city such a very special place to live, work and play.


It's going to be very interesting, indeed, to see what the Washington Post article looks l
ike. You'll remember that it was Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward who broke the Watergate scandal back in 1972. I suspect that every subsequent reporter who has worked there is looking for his "Watergate" all the time. Anyhow, the link to the Washington Post home page is HERE, in case you want to look for the story this weekend.

We've got three weeks until the next council meeting. Under "normal" circumstances I'd tell you that things will be calm until then, but I doubt that's going to be the case. Nope, just because they don't have a meeting until April 5th doesn't mean they won't be getting into mischief in the meantime. So, as I've said many, many times before - don't blink!

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Anonymous Barry Peterson said...

BC, I'm OUTRAGED! The City has just released the 2010 salary information by name and it's appalling. Check it out for yourself-

It disgusts me what some of these fat cats make! Your pal, Officer Dimel MAKES $192,500 a year! Yes, you heard that correctly!

No wonder our City has been bled dry by our salary and benefits.

These numbers ought to wake everyone in this town up to our "Baby Bell" problem. We are literally bankrupting ourselves with extravagant salaries and benefits for our workers. Thank goodness we know have a Council who will implement change!

I may be in the minority on this blog, but I'm in the majority in this City when we say WE'VE HAD ENOUGH!

3/16/2011 08:26:00 AM  
Blogger valan2 said...

I take issue with the statement that the Council "considered" Wendy Leece's request to review previous issues (outsourcing and private paramedics). I've never heard so many "points of order" as the three guys stumbled over each other to shut Wendy up and vote down her request. It was clear they had no intent of "considering" the matter.

Of particular interest was the revelation - after the hearing was concluded - that the letter that was the subject of the private paramedic issue had already been sent nearly two weeks ago. So, even if Leece's request had been granted, it was already too late. The wheels of government can move pretty fast when the right people want them to!

3/16/2011 09:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Wyatt Earp said...

I get another chance to correct Barry's misinformation (and the info coming from the city). Rob Dimel does not take home $192,500 per year. Example, Dimel and the rest of the cops have a base salary plus benefits. One of the benefits is vacation time accrual meaning they accrue vacation hours into vacation banks each year. When Dimel or anyone else takes vacation time, they code their timecard with vacation time used instead of regular hours. The city then deducts the hours used from the bank and pays Dimel out of that bank. The time not used from the regular hours bank is unused fund balance taken back by the city. The numbers from the city and BP lump these together as "total compensation" even though Dimel is NOT compensated twice when he takes vacation as I have just shown you. This is also true for sick time and holiday time. BP and others like him like to mislead you with these numbers, but again these have no cash value to the employee.

I encourage everyone to look at those numbers then look at the numbers from any other city in OC that has posted theirs. I only ask that you compare apples to apples, not apples to lemons as BP and others like to do. You will find that CMPD is in the middle or upper middle of every category. In other words, your city does not pay near as much as others. If you believe you can pay bottom of the barrel wages and benefits to your cops, then you will get bottom of the barrel service that goes with it. Cops, like anyone else, do not work for free and they are free to take their training, knowledge and experience to any other agency (and yes, many agencies are still hiring, they are trying to take advantage of cities like CM to stock their ranks with highly trained and knowledgable officers, and 4/5 of them pay more than CM does).

Don't be duped by people like BP. He is trying to scare you by throwing out "Baby Bell" and misleading numbers like Dimel's total compensation as if he took home that much. Remember, the Bell scandal was the people at the TOP of the city, not the line staff, of which Rob Dimel is a line officer providing service. People in Bell obviously committed fraud on the city and citizens. CMPD negotiated in good faith with the city as it always does (BTW, voluntarily giving back over $5 mil over the next 4 years). That does not matter to the likes of people like BP. His only means of discussion is to mislead and attempt to scare you. Don't be fooled by him. Do some research and find out for yourself.

3/16/2011 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

valan2, too late... posted the first one before I read the other 2 you sent...

Wyatt Earp, thanks for doing my job for me! :-) I've been trying to reach someone in CM HR this morning to clarify some of the numbers that sent Barry Peterson into a tizzy. Thanks for the clarification.

Sadly, some folks that have worked in jobs that didn't have much of a high-end potential get their shorts in a wad when they read about folks making more money than they have. They don't understand that compensation is a "sales tool" - something you use to attract the best employees you can. It's a very competitive market - particularly with police officers - and surveys are done constantly to assess just where organizations stand compared to competing cities. You're correct - if you pay the worst you're likely going to get the worst employees available.

3/16/2011 10:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Barry P. said...

Wyatt Earp, NOT TRUE. Vacation, and all the other "fluff" income that our cops and fireman make are treated as income for purposes of calculating their pension when they retire at the young age of 50.

If you want to continue to claim that base salary only is the true salary for our safety officials you are distorting the facts. Vacation is paid out. It is carried as income on the City books for that very reason.

For those of you that continue to believe this is just GOP fear-mongoring (as I did before I got educated about this mess) read Jon Cassidy's piece in the OC Register today. Very enlightening!

3/16/2011 10:32:00 AM  
Anonymous reform said...

Total compensation is how much the employee costs the city each year. The city is actually paying that much. Ok with good salary, but the overtime listed is crazy. city paying any part of employee contribution to pensions is crazy. We don't get to cash in our sick time - why do city employees? reform is needed now.

3/16/2011 11:46:00 AM  
Anonymous almostdone said...

Barry is OUTRAGED! What a surprise.
Regardless of which figures you use for public safety salaries, this is the way it works...
Costa Mesa and every other city is in competition with each other for the best employees they can get for these positions.
Costa Mesa PD goes through nearly thousands of applicants for every person that ends up with a career after making it through the testing, the background checks, the training and probation.

Why is that necessary? Because all it takes is one bad cop decision and the resulting law suit for millions of dollars to surpass the costs of paying for and keeping the best they can get.

City managers and police and fire chiefs who understand this, manage the business of running these depts by doing everything they can to not only hire but also retain the best and most experienced people they can.

Just like in the private world, employees with job skills will work for employers who will pay them with the best compensation packages. Happens every day and they often end up back where they started, making more than they ever would have if they waited for a raise, because they negotiated with their feet.

When a dept like Costa Mesa offers bottom of the barrel compensation, it's experienced people will be hired by another employer who will give them a better deal. Simple as that and those other cities out there have no issues with taking them away because there's lots of money to be saved in hiring somebody who's had his training paid for by somebody else.
So CM becomes a training ground for other cities and the experience level drops. Then the big law suit happens and everybody wonders... WTF!

As for what Officer Dimmel makes... He's a highly trained, vetern police officer that flys a jet engine helicopter routenly in what amounts to a aerobatic manuver, at night, on night vision goggles... for cripes sake!

You can do that Barry? Right? No, I didn't think so.

3/16/2011 12:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Gary Craig, CPA said...

No reform,
Total compensation is not the same as pay, nor does it represent a cash outflow by the city, and it includes accrued liabilities.

Do people actually believe that you can live in Costa Mesa, own a house (in your 30's) and not make at least $150K per year in salary and salary alone?

I think there are a lot of retired people here that really have no concept of what it costs to live in this end of OC as a young professional with a mortgage. These total comp numbers, even if they were salaries, do not seem outrageous to me, but firmly middle class.

3/16/2011 12:25:00 PM  
Anonymous checkyoursix said...

Gary Craig's theme is good but you CAN own a house in Costa Mesa for 110K a year, just not in Mesa Verde generally, though one did just sell that was livable for 415K in Mesa Verde and with 10% down you could qualify with less than 100K income. But ususally it is TWO incomes these days that make up a family's total. The days of stay at home mom are reserved for police and fire families now or for our successful businesssmen who sit on council. Also, you could start with a condo and build up equity and then get a house, you know, the old fashioned way. Or buy a duplex and rent one unit out. Or buy in Santa Ana or Anaheim and then move up to Costa Mesa. Used to be done that way. Hopefully, they can change the pension formula for current employees, let them keep what they have earned in the past, but going forward use a formula that is sustainable. Retirement age must go higher. Snowden gets paid for retirement and is now a paid Police Chief for BH, so much for the stress that cops must retire at 50 because of. Our retired fire chief is working, now pulling in a check from NB. What's next, retiring our police and fire folk, have NB do the same, and then each city hire the other ones retired folk so they can get two checks? As for being in the "middle" of what surrounding cities pay, it was a ponzi scheme, bidding pay up and up one after another. We want the best cops and firefighters, we just cannot afford them. Maybe the talent pool is larger than we think and new young, hard charging bucks will turn out great if that is what it has to come down to. (Pandora goes 0 for 3, still hitless)

3/16/2011 01:46:00 PM  
Anonymous pj said...

Council states they want the City to be run like a business, so they change the name of the City Manager to CEO; however, in the private sector, the CEO would never broadcast employee salaries and compensation on the Internet or anywhere else.

Timing was perfect for the residents to get up in arms and not understand what all the numbers really mean, and the next day layoff notices are delivered as if to say, see, I told ya...

3/16/2011 09:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Max said...

Kind of hard to believe anything Barry Peterson has to say at this point in time. Barry sounds like he is either ignorant or paid by Riggy to make rigdiculous posts.

3/17/2011 01:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Wyatt Earp said...

BP, and anyone else drinking the Kool Aid can call PERS right now and PERS will tell you exactly what I have said, vacation time, comp time, sick time and holiday time are NOT counted as compensation towards retirement. Don't take my word for it. Call them right now and they will tell you that.

Vacation time, comp time and holiday time previously had cash out provisions (each was somewhat different). The cops and I believe all CM employees gave that up as part of the voluntary concessions to the city. It is now "use it (take time off) or lose it". Don't take my word for it. Call human resources and they will tell you that as well.

checkyoursix, you speak of hard charging young bucks. Well, those are the types of officers that tend to make the most arrests because they arrest everything in sight. But, they also make the most mistakes and create the most liability for any city. If this council continues on this path, CMPD risks losing not only the young bucks, but also the veterans that can help them learn and reduce liability. Why would anyone want to work here? The very real possibility exists that CMPD would only be able to hire those that are leftovers that other cities didn't take as those cities would have the pick of the litter because of better pay and benefits.

Using a Chief is a poor example. By the time someone makes Chief, they have generally been out of the field for the better part of 10-15 years. The stress, if there is any, is different from the cop that must chase suspects, enter rooms searching for armed suspects, attempt to take drunks into custody, etc. Snowden has been a Lt., Capt or Chief since the early 80's. He hasn't seen the field since that time. Not a good comparison to the cop on the street.

3/17/2011 05:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Recall Riggy and Mensinger said...

Righeimer is the real criminal here.

Tell me who is the real bad guy... the employees who met EVERY DEMAND asked of them from the council in order to save the city money. The same employee's that work hard , are educated and work for the average salary in the county. (Dont be fooled by numbers, Riggy post salaries but never tells you they include Overtime BECAUSE OF HUGE AMOUNT OF OPEN POSITIONS CAUSED BY THE COUNCIL AND LAYOFFS AND REFUSAL TO HIRE-- someone has to run the city) OR

Righeimer, who had a nearly $400,000 in salary / compensation through his so called businesses THAT ARE ALL IN SOME SORT OF BANKRUPTCY, LIEN OR DISPUTE. (Kind of like the Bankers that are backed by the GOP) And he still lives in a $1.5 million house in Mesa Verde. AND is receiving 3x the medical compensation of the Police and Firefighters he is trying to get rid of. (Council gets almost $1400/mo in medical comp while Police and Fire get about $550)

Sure looks like Righeimer has learned how to Rape a company of its value for his own gains, then dumps it.

So, Who is the real wolf in sheeps clothing ?

3/17/2011 03:06:00 PM  

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