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L.A. City Council takes heat over salaries

February 4, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
With the city in the midst of a financial crisis, an online report shows the L.A. City Council is the highest paid in the country. The online report was posted in a move to make the city more transparent.

Who is making how much in the city of Los Angeles? From public works to public servants, L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel is publishing the numbers.

"All of us out here are having a hard time and yet these guys are earning all kinds of money while the economy is bad," said postal worker Arturo Esqueda.

The Los Angeles City Council is under scrutiny. A survey by The Pew Charitable Trusts reports that of the 15 largest U.S. cities, the L.A. City Council costs taxpayers the most.

A council member's annual salary is $178,000. That doubles Boston City Council members, and triples Houston's city council members.

L.A. City Council members say the money is justified.

"No Los Angeles Council member is allowed to earn any outside income," said Councilman Tom LaBonge. "This is a full-time job, and it's multiple days throughout the week."

"We have some of the largest jurisdictions in the country, 250,000 people, so it's not apples to apples," said Councilman Richard Alarcon. "In New York, they have 54 council members. In Chicago, they have over 50 council members."

That shows in another survey figure, that for all the salaries and services that come through the council offices, L.A. taxpayers pay the least per capita, at $6.62 per year.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl is a former CEO of a billion-dollar conglomerate. He took a pay cut to be a public servant.

L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti is among many who declined a pay raise and whose city car is 1999 plug-in model.

The council sees other pay costs that are troubling though. There are 75 fire officials that earn more than $250,000 per year.

And Friday, Councilman Dennis Zine presented a motion for a report comparing the salaries of L.A.'s general managers to others across the country.

"Overtime, overtime, overtime: Are we managing it properly? But it's not just the fire department," said Zine. "There's many departments that we have this situation in. And if you look at general managers, general managers' salaries are extremely high."