Riverside utilities dispatcher triples salary to nearly $400,000 with state’s 10th largest overtime payout

Riverside utilities electric power system dispatcher Donald Dahle was the city’s top earner last year, thanks to a $257,719 overtime (OT) payout — the 10th largest of the 1 million public workers surveyed statewide — that boosted his total earnings to $373,235.

An analysis of the newly released 2016 pay data from TransparentCalifornia.com reveals a sharp increase in Riverside’s OT expenditures, both on an individual and agency-wide basis.

In 2016, the city spent $20 million on overtime pay alone, a 33% increase from just three years prior. During that same period, the number of Riverside employees who earned at least $50,000 in OT nearly tripled, rising from 25 to 65.

Of those, 10 Riverside employees earned six-figure OT payouts last year —up significantly from 2014, when a single $100,650 OT payout marked the first time an employee crossed that threshold.

To view Riverside’s complete 2016 payroll report, please click here.

Inland Empire workers cashing in on unused leave, severance pay

In addition to regular salary and overtime pay, most California city workers are eligible for a host of supplemental pays that are frequently reported simply as “other pay.” This is where cash payments from selling back unused vacation and sick leave — a practice rarely found in the private sector — is reported.

Of the more than 200,000 city workers surveyed statewide, Inland Empire workers comprised 5 of the top 15 largest “other pay” spots.

  1. A staggering $330,000 unused leave payout for former Rialto police chief William Farrar was the 3rd largest of its kind among the California city workers surveyed last year.
  2. Former Palm Desert city manager John Wohlmuth’s $299,686 cash out was the 4th largest statewide — two-thirds of which came from severance pay, with the rest coming from unused leave.
  3. Former Fontana police chief Rodney Jones received $249,720 in unused leave and severance pay, which ranked 8th largest statewide.
  4. Former San Bernardino city manager Allen Park’s $227,177 severance payout was the 12th largest “other pay” amount statewide.
  5. Former Apple Valley assistant town manager received a $212,513 payout, the 15th largest statewide.

Transparent California research director Robert Fellner blames California’s collective bargaining laws for the growing gap between the benefits available to government workers and those available to taxpayers.

“As long as California gives coercive, monopolistic powers to government unions, taxpayers will continue to be forced to pay for lavish benefits that dwarf what they themselves can expect to receive.”

Legalized pension spiking, exorbitant benefits drive San Bernardino County’s soaring pension costs

TransparentCalifornia.com also released new 2016 payroll data for San Bernardino County in conjunction with the previously-unseen 2016 pension payout report from the County retirement system (SBCERA).

The data revealed a significant increase in the cost of benefits as a percentage of total wages, which grew from 35.5% in 2011 to more than 44% last year.

Fellner believes the explanation for such a dramatic rise can be found by analyzing what those costs are paying for.

For the third year in a row, SBCERA’s $89,058 average full-career pension was the highest of any comparable fund statewide.

Fellner points to the unusually rich nature of SBCERA benefits, which exceed even those offered by other California public pension plans:

Pension as % of final salary after 32 years at age 65

Fund

Pension

San Francisco

75%

Alameda County

78%

Contra Costa County

84%

Sacramento

84%

Riverside (CalPERS)

96%

San Bernardino

100%

While most retirement experts recommend a retirement income around 70% of final earnings, all of California’s public retirement systems offer much larger benefits, even after only a 32 year career.

County workers enjoy another benefit on top of an exceptionally generous benefit formula: the ability to include unused leave cash outs as part of their pensionable earnings, a practice Fellner calls “legalized pension spiking.”

Despite mild reforms for those hired after January 1, 2013, the cost of these benefits will drain resources from San Bernardino County for decades to come, according to Fellner.

“These exorbitant benefits are the reason why San Bernardino’s pensions cost consumed more than 16 percent of the County’s own-revenue last year — a rate that was more than triple the national average, according to a recent Stanford study.

“The extreme richness of San Bernardino’s pension program is particularly indefensible given the relatively modest income of most county residents.”

The 3 largest San Bernardino pension payouts last year went to:

  1. Former county counsel Ruth Stringer: $334,296.
  2. Former county undersheriff Richard Beemer: $307,547
  3. Former director of county safety Rodney Hoops: $292,217.

To view the complete datasets in a searchable and downloadable format, please visit www.TransparentCalifornia.com.

To schedule an interview with Transparent California, please contact Robert Fellner at 559-462-0122 or Robert@TransparentCalifornia.com.

Transparent California is California’s largest and most comprehensive database of public sector compensation and is a project of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.

LA firefighter trio earns nearly $1 million in OT pay (again)

Three Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) employees earned a combined $1.36 million last year — $974,779 of which came from overtime pay alone, according to just-released 2016 salary data from TransparentCalifornia.com.

Unsurprisingly, the LAFD trio earned the three largest overtime payouts of the more than 600,000 workers surveyed statewide:

  1. Fire captain Charles Ferrari received $334,655 in OT, with total earnings of $469,198.
  2. Fire captain James Vlach received $332,583 in OT, with total earnings of $469,158.
  3. Firefighter Donn Thompson received $307,542 in OT, with total earnings of $424,913.

This the trio’s 2nd year in a row as the state’s top overtime earners, having also topped the list of the more than 2.4 million government workers surveyed in 2015.

Remarkably, Donn Thompson has been appearing in these lists for decades — beginning with a 1996 Los Angeles Times report in which he was highlighted as an example of LAFD’s “paycheck generosity.”

Then, Thompson’s $219,649 combined overtime payout from 1993-1995 was the most of any Los Angeles firefighter, according to the Times. But excessive overtime pay at the LAFD went much further than any single employee, with the Times reporting that the department spent far more on overtime than any of its peers nationwide — nearly tripling the rate found at the New York City fire department, for example.

When asked about the LAFD’s overtime pay system, a Houston fire official reportedly said: “I don’t know of any other department that has it quite that lucrative.”

More alarming than the large dollar amounts was the discovery of what this money was being spent on. The Times reported that most overtime pay:

…is not being used for fires or other emergencies. Instead, most of it goes for replacing those who are out because of vacations, holidays, injuries, training, illnesses or personal leaves. Millions more go to firefighters on special assignments, such as in-house training and evaluation programs.

Thompson pulls in $1.23M over 3 years

Unfortunately, the Times exposé appears to have had little effect.

Thirteen years later, the Los Angeles Daily News reported that overtime pay at the LAFD “soared 60 percent over the last decade,” some of which was still being spent on things like after-hours remedial training for recruits.

And when the Daily News analyzed the department’s top OT earners, they discovered Donn Thompson sitting atop the list once more — this time having earned a combined $570,276 in overtime pay alone from 2006-2008.

Today, that number has risen to $880,810, which boosted Thompson’s total haul over the past three years to $1,229,504. Since 2014, Thompson has received annual overtime payouts that were either the 2nd or 3rd largest statewide — allowing him to earn more than four times his regular salary each year, according to TransparentCalifornia.com.

Thompson’s ability to collect outsized overtime payouts going back more than two decades raises a host of questions regarding safety, efficiency and legitimacy, according to Transparent California research director Robert Fellner.

“The fact that the same employee can receive such astronomical levels of overtime for so long reveals that the system is fundamentally broken.”

Six-figure OT payouts up 760% over past 5 years

In the original Times report, a retired LAFD firefighter described overtime pay as “a little extra bonus for the guys,” that allows them to get “a new boat on the river and a new truck every year.”

Back then, the department’s largest OT payout was just under $103,000 — which is less than half of the more than $330,000 earned by Vlach and Ferrari last year, after adjusting for inflation.

And as the dollar amount of these payouts exploded, so too has their number, particularly over the past five years.

Since 2012, the number of LAFD workers who received overtime payouts of at least $100,000 increased by 760 percent, hitting an all-time high of 439 last year:

LA512

By comparison, only one fire employee in the entire state of Nevada received a six-figure OT payout last year: Carson City fire captain Matthew Donnelly, who earned $110,217 in overtime pay, according to TransparentNevada.com.

A systemic issue that’s here to stay

In 1995, the LAFD spent a “budget-wrenching” $58.6 million on overtime pay, which — at 22 percent of total expenses — was far greater than any of its peers nationwide, according to the Times.

In 2008, that number hit $139 million, which prompted a recently retired fire captain to call for an overhaul of the department’s staffing system, according to the Daily News.

Now at $197 million — which represents a more than twofold increase since 1995, after adjusting for inflation — overtime pay constitutes 31 percent of LAFD’s expenses, according to the City’s adopted budget for the 2016 fiscal year.

And as it did two decades ago, this rate far surpasses the level paid by other major fire departments nationwide, as shown in the chart below:

Overtime pay as percentage of fire department’s budget, FY16FDbudget

A contract provision that requires vacation leave to count as hours worked towards overtime pay illustrates the root cause of the department’s soaring overtime costs, according to Fellner.

“The issue is not a lack of solutions. Those have been forthcoming from a coalition of experts, including those from LAFD’s own ranks, for decades. The issue is lack of a political will for the precise reason an official outlined nearly two decades ago: fear of political retaliation.

Unfortunately, public unions have weaponized the trust bestowed upon the firefighting profession as a means to enrich themselves, at the expense of public safety and taxpayers alike.”

To explore the full dataset in a searchable and downloadable format, please visit TransparentCalifornia.com.

To schedule an interview with Transparent California, please contact Robert Fellner at 559-462-0122 or Robert@TransparentCalifornia.com.

Transparent California is California’s largest and most comprehensive database of public sector compensation and is a project of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.

$299,000 overtime payout boosted Oakland city engineer’s total compensation to nearly $500,000

Oakland civil engineer Kenny Lau’s $484,175 pay and benefits package was the largest of any Oakland worker last year, according to just released 2016 pay data from TransparentCalifornia.com.

Lau was able to collect total compensation so far in excess of his $108,841 regular salary thanks to receiving $299,000 in overtime pay — the fourth largest OT payout of the more than 550,000 government workers surveyed statewide.

Such an outsized OT payout suggests a total of 5,890 hours worked for the year, which averages out to over 16 hours a day for all 365 days of the year, according to Transparent California research director Robert Fellner.

Transparent California requested a copy of Lau’s time cards or other records indicating total hours worked for the 2016 year more than two weeks ago, but has yet to receive a response from the city.

Remarkably, this is the 2nd year in a row Lau received the state’s 4th largest OT payout, having received $257,097 in 2015.

Soaring OT pay has increased Lau’s total compensation significantly over the past four years, which has risen from roughly $300,000 in 2013 to nearly $500,000 last year.

“The extent and duration of such an enormous level of overtime pay for a single worker raises a host of questions regarding efficiency, safety and legitimacy,” Fellner said.

“It is simply inconceivable for an employee to have worked as many hours as this amount of overtime indicates. The City should immediately conduct an audit into their procedures and policies governing overtime pay.”

After Lau, the next four highest compensated Oakland city workers were:

  1. Police officer Malcolm Miller: $463,215.
  2. Fire department engineer Preetpal Dhaliwal, whose $263,174 OT payout was the sixth highest of any city worker surveyed and boosted his total compensation to $456,216.
  3. City administrator Sabrina Birnbaum: $421,713.
  4. Battalion chief Demond Summons: $414,730.

City workers’ earnings more than double that of residents

Total city-wide compensation increased nearly 5 percent year over year to $550 million, with the median full-time, full-year Oakland city worker having earned $96,406 in total wages and $145,355 in total compensation last year. By comparison, the median Oakland private-sector worker earned $44,875 in 2015 — according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Compensation is defined as total wages plus the employer cost of retirement and health benefits.

To explore the full dataset in a searchable and downloadable format, please visit TransparentCalifornia.com.

To schedule an interview with Transparent California, please contact Robert Fellner at 559-462-0122 or Robert@TransparentCalifornia.com.

Transparent California is California’s largest and most comprehensive database of public sector compensation and is a project of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.

 

Six former LA safety officers collected pension payouts of over $1,000,000 apiece last year

Newly released public pension data from TransparentCalifornia.com shows a $1,462,770 pension payout going to former Los Angeles deputy police chief Earl Paysinger last year — with $1,338,232 coming from a one-time DROP payout and the remaining $124,538 representing Paysinger’s ongoing, annual pension amount.

The deferred retirement option plan (DROP) allows an employee to draw a salary and pension simultaneously for up to 5 years, with each year’s pension being deposited into an interest-bearing account. Upon actual retirement, the accumulated balance can be withdrawn either as a lump-sum payment or rolled over into an annuity.

The DROP program helped six members of the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions (LAFPP) system collect payouts of over $1,000,000 last year. After Paysinger, the next five highest payouts went to:

  1. Former assistant fire chief Emile Mack: $1,457,638.
  2. Former deputy fire chief Mario Rueda: $1,226,360.
  3. Former assistant fire chief Mark Stormes: $1,083,887.
  4. Former police commander Michael Williams: $1,079,058.
  5. Former deputy police chief Kirk Albanese: $1,006,872.

Los Angeles County

Despite lacking the DROP program, pension payouts at the Los Angeles County Employees’ Retirement Assocation (LACERA) were still quite large, with former Harbor-UCLA Medical Center chief physician Charles Mehringer’s $403,375 annual pension topping the list.

The next 3 highest LACERA pension payouts went to:

  1. Retired sheriff Leroy Baca: $334,978.
  2. Retired UCLA medical center chief physician Robert Morin: $326,278.
  3. Retired sheriff Larry Waldie: $325,554.

The third pension system serving Los Angeles is the Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System (LACERS), which serves non-safety Los Angeles city employees. Transparent California research director Robert Fellner noted that despite paying out comparatively smaller benefits than either LACERA or LAFPP, LACERS was in significantly worse financial shape than its peers.

“With an unfunded liability of more than 250 percent of covered payroll, LACERS will likely have to raise costs again, further burdening a city that already spends 20 percent of operating revenue on pensions.”

In dollar terms, the unfunded liability for LAFPP, LACERA and LACERS was $1.15 million, $9.5 million and $5 million, respectively.

The top three Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System (LACERS) payouts went to:

  1. Retired personnel department general manager Margaret Whelan: $237,451.
  2. Retired harbor department general manager Bruce Seaton: $236,530.
  3. Retired harbor department port pilot Michael Owens: $234,159.

To view the entire dataset in a searchable and downloadable format, visit TransparentCalifornia.com.

To schedule an interview with Transparent California, please contact Robert Fellner at 559-462-0122 or Robert@TransparentCalifornia.com.

Transparent California is California’s largest and most comprehensive database of public sector compensation and is a project of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.

Top LA County Pension Passes $400,000 Mark

The top pension payout at the Los Angeles County Employees’ Retirement Association (LACERA) has eclipsed $400,000 for the first time ever, according to just released public pension data.

Today, Transparent California released 2016 pension payout data for the city and county of Los Angeles, as well as the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System (SDCERS).

Former Harbor-UCLA Medical Center chief physician Charles Mehringer’s $403,375 pension was the first time the $400,000 threshold was broken at LACERA. The next 3 highest LACERA pension payouts went to:

  • Retired sheriff Leroy Baca: $334,978.
  • Retired UCLA medical center chief physician Robert Morin: $326,278.
  • Retired sheriff Larry Waldie: $325,554.

The top three Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System (LACERS) payouts went to:

  1. Retired personnel department general manager Margaret Whelan: $237,451.
  2. Retired harbor department general manager Bruce Seaton: $236,530.
  3. Retired harbor department port pilot Michael Owens: $234,159.

San Diego

Former fire battalion chief Benjamin Castro’s $885,848 payout topped the SDCERS list — $816,760 of which came from the controversial deferred retirement option plan (DROP). DROP allows an employee to draw a salary and pension simultaneously for up to 5 years, with each year’s pension being deposited into an interest-bearing account. Upon actual retirement, the accumulated balance can be withdrawn either as a lump-sum payment or rolled over into an annuity.

The next three highest SDCERS payouts went to:

  • Retired assistant police chief Mark Jones: $797,408.
  • Retired police captain Dawn Summers: $747,843.
  • Retired fire battalion chief Daniel Saner: $727,696.

To view the entire dataset in a searchable and downloadable format, visit TransparentCalifornia.com.

Transparent California is California’s largest and most comprehensive database of public sector compensation and is a project of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.

Help keep government transparent!

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Source: ABC30 Fresno

As our 3rd year of operation comes to a close, we remain truly humbled by the overwhelmingly positive response to the Transparent California website and the service it provides.

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To get a sense of the impact that Transparent California has had so far, be sure to browse the News section of our blog, which contains a small sample of how Transparent California has helped to empower residents and the media with complete, accurate information on public pay and pension data.

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105 Santa Monica city workers cleared over $300,000 last year

CBS Los Angeles did a report on Santa Monica’s extroardinarly high compensation packages, using TransparentCalifornia.com data.

The TV segment can be viewed here.

Given the time constraints, the segment could only cover a fraction of the excess. Here are some additional examples:

Santa Monica tops statewide list for a variety of jobs:

The current city manager — hired during the 2015 year — makes a $340,000 base salary, which will easily place him in the top 3 next year, when there is a full year’s compensation package (I estimate it will be around $450,000 when benefits are included) to report.

Two more anecdotal examples:

  1. Farmers’ Market Supervisor: $142,903.
  2. Assistant City Librarian: $220,558.

This excess is pervasive throughout the city, with Santa Monica outspending its peers in total department wide spending as well:

Spending on attorneys (includes assistants and deputy city attorneys)

  • Long Beach: $4.75 million for 28 attorneys at an average cost of $170,000.
  • Anaheim: $4.45 million for 24 attorneys at an average cost of $185,000.
  • Santa Monica: $7.55 million for 29 attorneys at an average cost of: $260,417.

In total, Santa Monica spends 59% and 70% more on attorneys than their much larger neighboring cities.

Perhaps most compelling is what Santa Monica spends on transit, which is the city’s largest department both in raw dollar terms and number of workers — with bus drivers accounting for more than 13% of the city’s entire workforce.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median city transit bus driver in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale metropolitan area earns a wage of around $39,000. The median Santa Monica bus driver makes $59,000 in regular pay — which excludes overtime, other pay and benefits.

This disparity is then amplified via overtime and retirement benefits based on a regular salary that is already 50% higher than the market wage for other city transit bus drivers in the Los Angeles area.

Adding benefits, overtime and other pay increases the compensation package for the median Santa Monica bus driver to $111,585 — with the highest earning just under $168,000.

Finally, at $3,200 per resident, Santa Monica is tied with Beverly Hills for spending more on employee compensation than any other city in California.

Fairness

Santa Monica’s city manager defends this pay as a matter of “fairness” based on speculation that TV news anchors might make even more.

But this misses the point: government is spending other people’s money. Everyone would love to see all bus drivers earn over $100,000, but it’s the definition of unfairness to take money from those earning much less to fund lavish pay and benefits for a select few.

The impact

Santa Monica’s roughly $300 million in employee compensation accounts for 72% of the entire General Fund operating budget. This goes a long way to explaining why Santa Monica has some of the highest taxes in the nation, such as:

  • 10.25% sales tax
  • 10% utility tax
  • 14% hotel tax
  • 10% parking tax

Consequently, when the next funding need comes up — be it paving roads, bailing out pensions in the event of a market downturn, etc. — the City will likely have to hike their already record high taxes yet again.

But when that tax hike comes, taxpayers have a right to know its true cause:

Santa Monica’s General Operating Fund, FY16piechart