Oakland police officer’s $490,000 pay package tops city list for 3rd year in a row​

Oakland police officer Malcolm Miller more than quadrupled his $107,627 salary to $489,662 with overtime, benefits and other specialty pays last year — making him Oakland’s highest paid employee for the third year in a row, according to just-released pay data.

Today, Transparent California released previously-unseen 2015 public employee compensation data for the city of Oakland on TransparentCalifornia.com, the state’s largest public sector compensation database. The site now contains 2015 salary data for 391 cities and 44 counties statewide.

Miller’s enduring status as Oakland’s top-paid city worker is mostly due to collecting massive amounts of overtime (OT) pay, as well as cashing in large sums of unused leave. Last year’s $192,108 OT payout suggests a nearly 90 hour average work-week, according to Transparent California’s research director Robert Fellner.

Using historical data from TransparentCalifornia.com, Fellner discovered that Miller, along with colleagues Eric Karsseboom and Huy Nguyen, have received OT payments suggesting average work-weeks of 80, 76 and 88 hours, respectively, over the past five years, as shown in the chart below:

Average hours worked per week for 3 Oakland police officers based on OT, 2011-2015

Fellner warned that, “The public should be concerned that working such an extraordinary amount of hours for years on end is a recipe for disaster, particularly given the life-or-death situations police officers routinely encounter.”

Surprisingly, Oakland’s top OT-earner was a non-safety worker: Oakland civil engineer Kenny Lau’s $257,097’s OT payout was the fourth-highest statewide, behind only 3 Los Angeles firefighters. Statewide, Lau was the only non-safety worker among the top 50 employees who received the largest OT payouts last year.

Milpitas fire inspector tops statewide list

A survey of 95 Bay Area cities — excluding the city/county of San Francisco — reveals that the average full-time, year-round city worker received $157,498 in total compensation last year.

The Bay Area’s highest-compensated city worker was Milpitas fire prevention inspector Don Yamashita, whose $541,557 compensation package was the richest of the more than 250,000 city workers surveyed statewide. After Yamashita, Malcolm Miller was the 2nd highest-compensated Bay Area city worker.

The next three highest-compensated Bay Area city workers were:

  1. Vallejo city manager Daniel Keen, whose $472,686 compensation package was the 2nd highest of any city manager statewide.
  2. San Jose police chief Larry Esquivel Jr., whose $470,288 compensation package was the 2nd highest of any police chief statewide.
  3. San Jose city manager Norberto Duenas, whose $457,387 was the 3rd highest of any city manager statewide.

The average full-time, year-round Milpitas employee received $187,597 in total compensation last year — second only to the City of Industry out of the 391 cities surveyed statewide.

After Milpitas, the next five cities with the highest average compensation packages for full-time, year-round employees were all from the Bay Area:

  1. Redwood City: $186,118
  2. Corte Madera: $183,750
  3. Atherton: $181,170
  4. San Jose: $180,723
  5. Santa Clara: $179,333

Total employee compensation for all 95 Bay Area cities surveyed increased 9.5% as compared to the previous year. The three Bay Area cities with a population of at least 10,000 that experienced the largest increases were San Ramon (25%), Newark (19%), and Vallejo (14%).

Fellner points to recent reports of residents fleeing the Bay Area as an example of the burden excessive public pay can have on taxpayers.

“Elected officials impose a tremendous burden on taxpayers when they cave to the demands of public unions for ever-higher levels of government pay. Now, many residents — who on average make much less than their government counterparts — are being forced from their homes due to the sky-high levels of taxes required to fund such exorbitant pay packages.”

Compensation is defined as total wages plus the employer cost of retirement and health benefits. Full-time, year-round employees are defined as those receiving a salary equal or greater to 90 percent of the “annual salary minimum” reported.

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

Los Angeles firefighter boosts $87,000 salary to over $400,000 via ‘dangerous’ levels of OT, other pay 

Soaring overtime pay allowed Los Angeles firefighter Donn Thompson to pocket $404,308 last year — more than quadruple his base salary, according to just-released data.

Today, Transparent California released previously-unseen 2015 public employee compensation data — complete with names, pay, and benefits — for 379 cities and 42 counties statewide on TransparentCalifornia.com, the state’s largest public sector compensation database.

The data reveals sky-high overtime (OT) payouts at the City of Los Angeles, which were up over 18 percent from the previous year. In fact, the top 20 largest OT payouts of the more than 245,000 employees surveyed statewide all went to Los Angeles workers.

The top 3 OT payouts statewide went to:

  1. Los Angeles fire captain James Vlach, whose $311,316 OT payout was 158% more than his $120,829 salary.
  2. Los Angeles firefighter III Donn Thompson, whose $286,733 OT payout was 229% more than his $87,158 salary.
  3. Los Angeles fire captain Charles Ferrari, whose $273,496 OT payout was 126% more than his $120,829 salary.

Such a large concentration of overtime pay within a select few employees is dangerous, particularly for fire fighters, according to Transparent California’s research director Robert Fellner.

“These overtime payments indicate an average work-week in excess of 100 hours a week, for years on end. This is a recipe for disaster given the life-or-death situations fire fighters routinely encounter.”

Fellner pointed to the historical data on Transparent California that revealed all three of this year’s top OT earners had received outsized OT payments for at least the past three years, as shown in the chart below:

Overtime pay as % of base salary for 3 Los Angeles firefighters, 2013-2015

County-wide

A survey of 60 Los Angeles County cities, excluding the city of Los Angeles, revealed that the average full-time city worker received $131,600 in total compensation last year.

The five Los Angeles County cities with the highest average compensation package for full-time, year round employees were:

  1. Redondo Beach: $155,852
  2. Manhattan Beach: $155,850
  3. Santa Monica: $152,050
  4. Beverly Hills: $150,648
  5. Downey: $150,129

The three highest-compensated city employees in Los Angeles County were:

  1. Los Angeles Harbor chief port pilot II Bent Christiansen: $510,805, retirement benefits not included.
  2. Los Angeles Harbor port pilot II John Betz: $494,216, retirement benefits not included.
  3. Los Angeles Harbor chief port pilot II Michael Rubino: $488,562, retirement benefits not included.

The importance of reporting total compensation

In the public sector, salary often represents only a fraction of an employee’s total compensation package, according to Fellner.

“While taxpayers may assume salary represents nearly all of an employee’s compensation package, some public employees collect compensation packages worth more than triple their base salary.”

As an example, Fellner pointed to three employees at the cities of Torrance, Long Beach and Santa Monica, all of whom collected compensation packages worth more than triple their salaries, as shown in the chart below:

Breakdown of compensation received by 3 Los Angeles-area city workers, 2015

The cities of Redondo Beach, Torrance and Downey ranked highest out of the 60 Los Angeles County cities surveyed, with total compensation coming in at 92, 87 and 83.5 percent more than total salary paid. The average Los Angeles city’s total compensation was 53.5 percent more than total salary.

Compensation is defined as total wages plus the employer cost of retirement and health benefits. Full-time, year-round employees are defined as those receiving a salary equal or greater to 90 percent of the “annual salary minimum” reported.

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