Madera mayor misleads residents in attempt to hide unjustifiable, excessive pay raises

In a recent commentary addressing residents’ concerns over rising employee compensation costs, Madera Mayor Andrew Medellin deceived readers by misrepresenting and dramatically understating the raise granted to city workers in 2015.

The mayor explained that the raise was approved in response to a city-commissioned study which found that the average Madera job paid 4.4 percent less in total compensation than the “market median” of 10 neighboring cities.

Specifically, the mayor claimed that the raise approved in FY2015 was merely enough to “meet the market median.”

While such a raise did occur, the mayor omitted the additional 11 percent cumulative raise provided on top of the increase to the market median.

In addition to increasing salaries to the market median, the FY2015 agreement also provided an immediate and additional 5 percent across-the-board pay raise to all employees, followed by a 3 percent raise in FY2016 and again in FY2017.

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The mayor’s omission of this fact is an implicit recognition of the excessive and unjustifiable nature of this pay raise, according to Transparent California Research Director Robert Fellner.

“The mayor’s misrepresentation of the true scope of the pay raises he voted for is just as troubling as the excessive pay raises themselves. As our report shows, the so-called market median was already inflated due to the fact that Madera is the poorest of all the cities used in the city’s commissioned salary comparison. But the 11 percent raise on top of that is particularly indefensible, something the mayor appears to recognize by his conspicuous omission of that fact.”

Upon learning that Madera residents were not being provided complete and accurate information by their elected representative, Transparent California, a government watchdog dedicated to improving transparency in government, today published a complete report detailing the full scope of the FY2015 pay raise approved by the Madera City Council.

That report’s key findings are:

  • The cumulative pay raise ranged from an 11 – 44 percent increase over 3 years, with a 20 percent increase for the average Madera job classification.
  • The city projects a general fund shortfall for each of the next five years, rising from an estimated $1.7 million deficit in FY2018 to $3.9 million by FY2023.
  • The estimated aggregate impact of the FY2015 pay raise is $1.835 million annually in additional salary and benefit costs.
  • The city-commissioned salary study was fundamentally biased in favor of higher pay and did not appear to take into account the fact that Madera, when measured on a variety of metrics, is poorer than all 10 cities used in the study’s comparison.

The full report can be read here.

TransparentCalifornia.com is used by millions of Californians each year and has received praise for its ability to successfully improve transparency in government by lawmakers and elected officials, government employees, the media, university researchers and concerned citizens alike.

For more information, 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.

Public records lawsuit filed against Los Angeles government

Today, the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the Los Angeles County West Vector Control District for refusing to comply with the California Public Records Act (CPRA).

The lawsuit stems from NPRI’s work on its TransparentCalifornia.com website — which publishes pay data for approximately 2.5 million California public employees from nearly 2,500 unique government agencies.

The District describes itself as “the second largest vector control district in the state of California by population served.” Vector control districts are also known as mosquito abatement districts which, as their name implies, are focused on preventing and controlling the spread of mosquitos and the diseases they carry. Residents fund these public agencies through an annual fee included on their property tax bill.

The District is one of 45 mosquito abatement districts statewide, according to data provided to Transparent California by the California State Controller’s Office.

Of the 15 mosquito abatement districts with the largest payroll statewide, the Los Angeles County West Vector Control District is the only one that has refused to comply with Transparent California’s request for basic salary data:

Transparent California first submitted a request for District employee names and wages in June 2014. After the District ignored the initial request — and every subsequent request — Transparent California submitted a renewed request via fax, e-mail and certified mail to the District on September 19, 2017.  The request explicitly stated that Transparent California would be forced to resort to legal action if the District did not respond within ten days, as required by state law.

Despite returning the certified mail receipt indicating the request was successfully received on September 21, 2017, the District has so far failed to provide a response of any kind.

Transparent California research director Robert Fellner issued the following statement:

“The California Public Records Act requires that public records be disclosed in a prompt fashion, but this mandate is useless if governments can choose to ignore it with impunity. As a public agency funded by tax dollars, the Los Angeles County West Vector Control District has an obligation to be transparent and accountable to the public it was created to serve.”

The District’s willingness to so blatantly violate state law is an example of why the CPRA needs harsher penalties, Fellner added.

“In order for the governmental transparency promised to Californians to be fully realized, the Legislature must add real penalties for government actors who knowingly and willfully violate the state’s public records law.”

The lawsuit asks the court to compel the Los Angeles County West Vector Control District to comply with the CPRA and provide a copy of records documenting district employees’ name and salary information so that it may be published online at TransparentCalifornia.com.

TransparentCalifornia.com is used by millions of Californians each year and has received praise from elected officials, government employees, the media and concerned citizens alike for its ability to successfully improve transparency in government.

For more information, 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.

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Fresno Council of Governments sued for violating state’s public records law

Update: On September 29, 2017 the Fresno Council of Governments complied with our request and agreed to pay our attorney’s fees. Their data can be found here.


Today, the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) filed a lawsuit in Fresno County Superior Court against the Fresno Council of Governments for refusing to comply with the California Public Records Act (CPRA).

The lawsuit stems from NPRI’s work on its TransparentCalifornia.com website — which publishes the pay and pension data of nearly 2.5 million California public employees from over 2,000 unique government agencies.

The Council denied Transparent California’s request for records documenting the names and wages of its employees on the grounds that such information is confidential.

The Council’s rationale for withholding the requested public records contradicts longstanding California law, dating back to a 1955 official Attorney General Opinion that held that “the name of every public officer and employee, as well as the amount of his salary, is a matter of public record,” and a 2007 state Supreme Court case which codified that same finding.

Thus, the Council has unlawfully denied a request to access public records, according to Transparent California research director Robert Fellner.

“The California Public Records Act is emphatic in its purpose to make public all records concerning governmental affairs. The Fresno Council of Governments’ refusal to provide an accounting of their employees’ names and taxpayer-funded salaries is a clear violation of the law.”

The Council is designated by the state as a transportation planning agency and is comprised of 15 Fresno-area cities and the County of Fresno. The California State Controller’s Office reports that there are 11 “Council of Governments” agencies statewide. Transparent California has received the requested information from every one but Fresno:

Transparent California’s repeated attempts to inform the Council of their obligations under the law and elicit a lawful response went unheeded, leaving litigation as the only avenue available to access the public information sought.

The lawsuit asks the Court to compel the Fresno Council of Governments to comply with the CPRA and provide a copy of records documenting their employees’ name and salary information so that it may be published online at TransparentCalifornia.com.

TransparentCalifornia.com is used by millions of Californians each year and has received praise for its ability to successfully improve transparency in government by elected officials, government employees, the media, and concerned citizens alike.

For more information, 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.

 

Public records lawsuit filed against the City of Taft

Today, the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) filed a lawsuit in Kern County Superior Court against the City of Taft for refusing to comply with the California Public Records Act (CPRA).

The lawsuit stems from NPRI’s work on its TransparentCalifornia.com website — which publishes the pay and pension data of nearly 2.5 million California public employees from over 2,000 unique government agencies.

Taft is the only city in Kern County and one of only a handful of cities statewide that have consistently refused to provide the basic name and salary information requested. The City’s refusal to do so is a clear violation of state law, according to Transparent California research director Robert Fellner.

“The California Public Records Act is emphatic in its purpose to make public all records concerning governmental affairs. Taft’s refusal to provide an accounting of city employees and their taxpayer-funded salaries is a clear violation of the law.”

The City first justified its denial on the grounds that the information did not exist in the specific format requested, but when Transparent California relayed that the information need not be in any specific format, the City denied the request on the grounds that it was ‘nonspecific and unfocused.’

“Rather than focus on identifying records responsive to the purpose of our request — as state law mandates — the City appears intent on contriving any justification possible to keep its affairs shrouded in secrecy.”

The lawsuit asks the Court to compel Taft to comply with the CPRA and provide a copy of records documenting city employees’ name and salary information so that it may be published online at TransparentCalifornia.com.

TransparentCalifornia.com is used by millions of Californians each year and has received praise for its ability to successfully improve transparency in government by elected officials, government employees, the media, and concerned citizens alike.

For more information, 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.

CalPERS paid out over $20 billion in benefits last year as ‘100K club’ grows to nearly 23,000, new data shows

Update: Membership in the “$100k club” now stands at 62,474, click here for more.

Today, TransparentCalifornia.com — the state’s largest public pay and pension database — released 2016 pension data from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS).

The data reveal that CalPERS made 646,843 individual payments totaling over $20 billion last year, with 22,826 retirees earning pensions of over $100,000 — a 63 percent increase since 2012.

The top 3 CalPERS pensions went to:

  1. Former Solano County administrator Michael Johnson: $390,485.
  2. Former Los Angeles County Sanitation District GM Stephen Maguin: $345,417.
  3. Former UCLA professor Joaquin Fuster: $345,180.

The average pension for a full-career CalPERS retiree was $66,400.

The below chart reflects the 25 employers with the most retirees collecting at least $100,000 in pension from CalPERS last year were:

Employer

$100K Pensions

Santa Clara County

861

Oakland

523

Riverside County

469

Long Beach

360

Santa Ana

270

Anaheim

269

Santa Clara

240

Torrance

222

Riverside

216

Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District

216

Santa Monica

191

Glendale

189

Sacramento

167

Berkeley

162

Metropolitan Water District Of Southern California

159

Stockton

157

Sunnyvale

156

Fremont

155

Burbank

154

Pasadena

149

Hayward

147

Richmond

141

Newport Beach

141

San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District

133

Alameda County Fire Department

126

With the recent addition of CalPERS data, TransparentCalifornia.com now has over 1.1 million pension records from 33 California public pension plans.

Statewide, at least 52,963 retirees collected pensions of at least $100,000 last year, according to the data.

The continual rise in pension costs demonstrates the importance of making this information public, according to Transparent California research director Robert Fellner.

“Californians will spend over $30 billion on pension costs in the coming year, a price tag which entitles them to full transparency regarding how that money is being spent.”

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 the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.

DWP trio cleared over $1 million in pension pay, new data shows

Today, TransparentCalifornia.com released 2016 pension payout data from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) — the nation’s largest municipal utility district.

Today’s release is the first time that this information has ever been made available to the public, which was provided to Transparent California in response to multiple records requests spanning nearly 3 years.

With an aggregate cost equal to 50 percent of employee pay, the DWP retirement plan is one of the most expensive nationwide — with this year’s annual cost estimated at $465 million, according to the plan’s most recent actuarial valuation.

In other words, for every $100 in payroll, the DWP must spend an additional $50 on retirement costs.

Transparent California research director Robert Fellner highlighted the compounding effect this has in conjunction with salary increases:

“An exceptionally generous — and expensive — retirement plan means that the DWP’s famously above-market salaries end up costing ratepayers twice.”

Factoring in retirement costs boosted average employee compensation at the DWP to roughly $170,000 last year.

Engineering associate’s $363,000 pension tops list

Former DWP electrical engineering associate Nevenka Ubavich’s $363,061 annual pension was the largest of any DWP retiree and the 3rd largest of the over 500,000 public pension payouts surveyed statewide. After Ubavich, the next four largest DWP pensions went to:

  1. Former general manager Ronald Deaton: $356,806.
  2. Former assistant general manager Frank Salas: $336,432.
  3. Former assistant general manager Thomas Hokinson: $239,885.
  4. Former assistant general manager Gerald Gewe: $231,348

The average pension for a full-career DWP retiree was $72,643.

In addition to receiving fully-paid medical benefits while working, most DWP workers also receive healthcare benefits in retirement. When those costs are included, the average pension and benefits package for a full-career DWP retiree was $84,811.

Former DWP audio-visual technician Thatcus Richard — who was recently sentenced to five years in state prison after pleading no contest to nine felony counts of embezzlement — received $67,688 in pension and health benefits last year, according to the data.

DWP salaries, benefits well above market average

“While it is not uncommon for California public workers to receive dramatically richer retirement benefits than the taxpayers who must fund them, DWP workers are unique because every component of their compensation is so far above their private sector peers.”

In a previous analysis, Fellner found that the average DWP worker received wages 67 percent greater than their comparable, Los Angeles-area peers.

This gap increased to 155 percent after accounting for the DWP’s atypically generous health and retirement benefits. Of course, DWP employees also receive significantly greater levels of job security and favorable overtime pay provisions that would increase this disparity further.

The study estimated that the DWP could save nearly $400 million annually by reducing pay to market levels.

A city-commissioned study also found that the DWP’s payroll costs — on both a per-customer basis and as a percentage of total assets — were among the highest of the comparable utility companies surveyed.

Lowering the DWP’s payroll to the median level of the utility companies surveyed in that study would reduce costs by roughly $320 million a year.

The recent contract that provides DWP employees with a significant pay raise over the next five years highlights the importance of transparency, according to Fellner.

“Far too often taxpayers are provided misleading or incomplete information regarding the compensation costs that they are required to pay for. By providing complete and accurate pay data, Transparent California empowers the public with the information necessary to make informed decisions.”

To view the entire dataset in a searchable and downloadable format, please visit TransparentCalifornia.com — the state’s largest and most accurate public pay and pension database.

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.

Soaring overtime pay boosted Orange County fire captain’s $116,846 salary to over $500,000 last year, despite recently implemented cap

A $245,350 overtime payout — the 13th largest of the more than 1.3 million public workers surveyed statewide — boosted Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) captain Gregory Bradshaw’s total compensation to $508,495 last year, an amount more than four times greater than his $116,846 salary.

While Bradshaw was OCFA’s top earner, his fellow fire captains weren’t too far behind, with the average fire captain having received $301,791 in pay and benefits last year — according to an analysis of freshly released 2016 salary data published on TransparentCalifornia.com.

In 2014, an OCFA board member expressed frustration over “an accounting gimmick used to generate significant overtime costs,” according to an Orange County Register report.

While the Board’s concerns led to the implementation of an overtime cap effective April 1, 2015, overtime pay continued to rise nonetheless — with last year’s $47 million expenditure representing a more than 18 percent increase from the previous year.

The continued growth in overtime pay was also evident on an individual employee basis: The 44 OCFA employees who received overtime pay in excess of $100,000 last year represent a nearly threefold increase from the previous year, when there were only 15 employees who earned that much.

Transparent California’s research director Robert Fellner noted an alarming trend where a handful of employees who had received overtime in excess of their regular salary in the preceding years actually increased their overtime pay in 2016, after the cap was in place.

“Several employees who were already more than doubling their salary from overtime pay actually saw an increase after the cap took effect — which suggests that cap might need to be tightened a bit.”

To explore the full OCFA dataset as well as historical data dating back to 2011, please click here.

Orange County cities

Transparent California — the state’s largest and most accurate public pay database — recently added 2016 pay data for 411 California cities and 49 counties.

In Orange County, every city but Placentia — which has not replied to a public records request for this information — is now on the Transparent California website.

“It is disheartening that Placentia has not yet responded to our records request, but we very much appreciate the professionalism of all the other Orange County governments who facilitated our request in a prompt manner.”

Overtime pay up 19% at Anaheim

The City of Anaheim was home to the 5 largest overtime payouts of any Orange County city surveyed:

  1. Fire Engineer III Brian Pollema’s $204,458 OT pay boosted his total compensation to $403,528.
  2. Fire Fighter III Daniel Lambert’s $186,228 OT pay boosted his total compensation to $357,184.
  3. Fire Engineer III David Shimogawa’s $163,325 OT pay boosted his total compensation to $338,937.
  4. Fire Captain Mark Dunn’s $157,673 OT pay boosted his total compensation to $372,496.
  5. Senior Electrical Utility Inspector Kenneth Heffernan’s $155,356 OT pay boosted his total compensation to $300,917.

A survey of 148 cities with at least $1 million in overtime pay revealed an average year over year overtime pay increase of 5 percent last year.

Anaheim’s 19 percent increase in overtime pay was the most of any Orange County city and the 13th largest statewide.

The next four cities with the largest overtime pay increases in Orange County were:

  1. Buena Park: 18.5 percent, 14th largest statewide.
  2. Irvine: 17 percent, 17th largest statewide.
  3. Costa Mesa: 17 percent, 21st largest statewide.
  4. Fullerton: 14 percent, 30th largest statewide.

Orange County pay data

In 2015, the only Orange County worker to make over $400,000 in pay and benefits was Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, who received total compensation of $400,214.

The 2016 county payroll data reveals 11 workers making over $400,000 — with two county psychiatrists topping $500,000 apiece.

Total compensation at the county experienced a much milder increase, however, rising only 3 percent to just under $2 billion last year.

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.