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State controller starts city-leader pay site

October 25, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Bell salary scandal has prompted state officials to take a close look at the salaries of city and county officials all over California. Now the state controller has launched a website to allow the public to see those salaries.The outrage over the $800,000 the city of Bell paid its city manager, Robert Rizzo, sparked new scrutiny over how much local governments are paying their employees.

The state controller now has a database containing most compensation packages paid to city and county workers.

Watchdog PublicCEO.com praises the move.

"I think you have seen in Bell the worst a city manager can do," said Dan Oney, PublicCEO.com editor. "And now we're going to start to see the best of what local government can do when they start taking steps to control their spending."

No other city comes close to Bell, but there are still some eye-popping figures when you combine salary, benefits, pension contributions and other pay.

Beverly Hills, a city of 36,000, paid its now-retired city manager $439,000 last year, which included years of sick and vacation leave that were cashed in.

San Ramon, a city of 63,000, doled out $360,000 last year.

And Santa Monica, which has 92,000 residents, compensated its leader $315,000 last year.

By comparison, Los Angeles, a city of more than 4 million, typically pays its manager $262,000.

While Governor Schwarzenegger doesn't accept his state pay, a California governor makes $174,000.

The pay of the smaller cities caused most people to shake their heads in disbelief.

"I think a lot of our public officials are rather overpaid for the job that they do," said Sacramento resident Joanne Evans.

"Why is this happening? How can you have these extraordinary salaries, or exorbitant salaries, when our salary is nowhere close to it?" said Sacramento resident Mike Peretti.

The city of Santa Monica points out the city manager is the chief executive officer. It's a complex, full-service, highly responsive city with a population that doubles during the day.

PublicCEO.com warns face value doesn't always tell everything.

"Salaries without any context are kind of deceiving. How many employees do they oversee? What's their budget?" said Oney.

Transit and waste-disposal agencies will have to start reporting pay to the state by mid-December. The state controller can impose a $5,000 fine for non-compliance.


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