THE SOUND OF THE BELL
Three years ago nobody in city government would pay attention to the voices of caution who warned the City Council about the money excessive public employee salaries cost and the unfunded pensions of public employees. Now, thanks to the City of Bell perhaps the citizens of this community will pay attention to their role in government, and the need for serious and drastic reform.
Everything went wrong in Bell. It was greed in all of its glory, and it illustrated what is wrong with the arcane public pension system in this State, and in every city in this state, including Ventura. Bell City Manager, Robert Rizzo, resigned after it was revealed he was being paid $800,000 to oversee a town with a population of 40,000. Now the LA Times reports that the records actually show that he was paid $1,500,000 a year. Included in that was 28 weeks of vacation and sick time at a cost of $386,000. Well he is gone but he is not out because he will collect $600,000 yearly from his pension benefits with CALPERS.
This example however is even closer to home. Two people in the City of Bell used to work for the City of Ventura. Angela Spaccia, Assistant City Manger for Bell was paid $376,000 a year before she quit, and moved over to work for the City of Maywood. She used to work for the City of Ventura. Then there is Officer Randy Adams who worked in Ventura for 23 years as a police officer. He then gravitated through various jobs until he became the Chief of Police for the City of Bell. He too resigned after it was revealed that he was earning $457,000 a year. He can retire, as will Ms. Spaccia eventually, but whose money pays the pension?
Not the City of Bell. They escape nearly all the costs of Chief Adams $411,300-a-year pension. Under CALPERS rules, the city is responsible for just 3% of that because he only worked there for one year. Taxpayers in Glendale, Simi Valley and Ventura would have to pick up the tab.
This happened because Bell hired Adams at more than double the money he was making as Chief in the City Glendale. That salary spike doubled his eligible pension amount under CALPERS, the state’s public employee retirement plan. Add the state’s permissive pension laws and a host of variables that can dramatically affect retirement pay and we find a system that leaves you in a bleary daze
Other cities will be on the hook for Adams’ pensions costs even though their salaries were relatively modest. until he landed in Bell. When he resigned Chief Adams was making $457,000. He will now get approximately 90% of that sum. Glendale will have to pay around 16% of Simi Valley 18%, and Ventura 63%. Ventura alone will have to pay this guy $259,119 per year for life. Remember, none of this has ever been funded.
CITY OF VENTURA’S RESPONSE
Ventura’s mayor, Bill Fulton, has written several articles on the subject. You can go view the articles here. He, like everybody else, condemns the excesses by employees and officials in the City of Bell. His articles are well written and deserve a read, but how transparent is our city government? Mayor Fulton answered this question in one article:
“…democracy only works, even in small cities, if people pay attention, and oftentimes people aren’t paying attention. But one of the most disturbing aspects of the Bell situation … is how hard it is to figure out what’s happening even if you are paying attention. In spite of the state’s vaunted Brown Act open-meetings law, California governments are still not particularly transparent”.
HOW MUCH MONEY DOES THE COUNCIL MAKE?
The City Charter limits council members to $600 per month and the mayor to $700 per month, plus members are paid for participating on certain boards and commissions. Here is the yearly total:
|Fulton, Mayor||$ 8,800||$2,000||$1,200|
CITY EMPLOYEE COMPENSATION
|Ken Corney, Police Chief||$195,153|
|Quinn Fenwick, Asst. Police Chief||$160,012|
|Kevin Rennie, Fire Chief||$187,000|
|Don McPherson, Asst. Fire Chief||$170,014|
|Ron Calkins, Public Works Director||$175,547|
|Jay Panzica, Chief Financial Officer||$171,265|
|Rick Cole, City Manager||$174,158|
|Mary Walsh, Asst. City Manager||$171,265|
|Ariel Colonne, City Attorney||$194,909|
|Jeff Lambert, Community Dev. Dir.||$171,265|
|Elena Brokaw, Director, Parks & Rec.||$167,088|
|Jenny Romey, Human Resources Dir.||$159,037|
*In response to a VREG request for the full cost of each of these employees the City Manager, on August 10, 2010, provided the following response:
“Within the next few days, we (will) have calculations on the cost of employees over and above regular salary (we’ve just posted those earning over $100,000 including gross pay and overtime) to be followed by the Box 5 W2 calculations (which also includes city paid deferred comp and the value of life insurance) to be followed by a total all-in of that plus city paid benefits and CalPERS contributions”—Rick Cole, City Manager
For detailed information on past or present Ventura city employees’ salaries, visit transparentCalifornia.com.
As for Ventura’s exposure to the Randy Adams pension claims, purportedly the City has sent a letter of protest and/or legal challenge to CalPERS to try and stop payment. Good luck with that one! Even Chief Adams will lawyer-up and argue we are a nation of laws and not men.
How many more Randy Adams types do we have out there? How much more do we owe, over the amount funded through CalPERS, to those who are retired or about to retire in the future? It is time for government to become proactive instead of reactive in the management of our tax money and find out before we end up in the shearing shed. Stop listening to the bellwether !
B. Alviani S. Doll
J. Tingstrom K. Corse
B. McCord T. Cook
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