The 20 highest-paid city employees in California collected $9.8 million in 2009, an average of $490,000 each or nine times the state average, data shows.
The top earner was Robert Rizzo, the disgraced city manager of Bell, receiving $1.17 million. His assistant city manager, Angela Spaccia, was paid $562,538, according to data provided by California Controller John Chiang yesterday. Three police chiefs from different cities each earned more than $500,000, the data show.
“It’s outrageous,” said Marcia Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility in Sacramento, a nonprofit group pressing for changes in public-employee pensions. “They are getting compensated like they are top executives of companies that have actual competition.”
Public employee pay has come under scrutiny as cities and counties confront budget cuts amid declining revenue and less money from the state, which itself faces what was a $26 billion deficit. California’s 1.75 million local government workers received $94.7 billion in wages and salaries in 2009, or an average of $54,197, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
The Los Angeles Times reported last year that Rizzo earned $787,637 to run a city where one in four of its 38,000 residents lives below the poverty line, according to the Census Bureau.
Rizzo, Spaccia and two other Bell city officials were ordered on March 10 to stand trial on charges of misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest for allegedly taking $6.7 million in city funds. All have pleaded not guilty. Chiang began collecting salary data in the wake of the Bell scandal.
The three highest-paid city officials from outside of Bell all were high-ranking police who collected six-figure payouts when they retired in 2009.
Topping the list was Roy Campos, who retired as police chief of Downey, a city of 108,000 in Los Angeles County. Campos’ $593,999 payout was the result of about 30 years of unused holiday, sick and vacation time, the Orange County Register reported. The city manager’s office didn’t have an immediate comment when called by Bloomberg News.
In Monterey Park, another Los Angeles County suburb, former Police Chief Jones Moy took home $531,107 in 2009, according to data from the controller’s office. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported that $372,559 of Moy’s payout was for unused vacation, holiday and sick leave at the time of his retirement in September 2009.
City Exploring Measures
In a telephone interview, Monterey Park City Manager Paul Talbot said leaders of the city of 64,000 are exploring measures to eliminate large one-time payouts to employees.
“It affects the city to come up with that kind of dollar amount,” Talbot said. “The problem is, everything they have currently is vested.”
He said the one-time payouts don’t apply toward employee pensions.
Retired San Francisco Deputy Police Chief Charles Keohane was paid $516,118 in 2009, with most of that coming from vacation, sick and compensatory time upon retiring, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The San Francisco controller’s office didn’t have an immediate comment when called by Bloomberg News.
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