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.

 

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.