$100K Minimum Wage' For 220,000 Highly-Compensated California Public Employees Costs Taxpayers $35B
I cover the “daily greed” of national, state, and local politics.
In many states, public service has little to do with serving the public and everything to do with using the public’s money to serve politicians. Whenever we open the books, California is consistently among the worst offenders. Recently, we found ‘animal collection curators’ making $110,290; city librarians earning $222,320; public utility commission bosses at $550,028; and county hospital doctors making $1.274 million.
This spring, at Forbes, we exposed 50,000 Illinois public employees earning six-figure salaries who cost taxpayers $8 billion. In California the numbers are exponentially larger: 218,667 employees making six-figures who cost $35 billion. For example, Illinois has 72 ‘city managers’ out-earning every governor of the 50 states. But, in California, the salaries of 171 assistant city managers average $201,550!
Using our interactive mapping tool, quickly review (by ZIP code) the 220,000 California public employees who earn more than $100,000. Just click on a pin and scroll down to search the results rendered in the chart beneath the map.
Here are a few examples of what you’ll uncover by ZIP code:
· 90012, Los Angeles – the #1 ZIP code in California with 42,007 six-figure employees costing taxpayers $7.5 billion per year. The highly compensated LA ‘Port Pilot’ John Betz earned $482,792 helping cargo ships navigate the harbor and ten other ‘port pilots’ were paid an additional $3.7 million in salary plus overtime. Union contracts mandate the overtime abuses.
· 92502, Riverside County – the home of Lee Wagner, an Assistant Sheriff who netted $653,025. Wagner’s base salary was $234,584, but received a salary spike by cashing-in unused banks of benefits, i.e. leave. Also, the county highly compensated its ‘staff psychiatrists’: Charles Yates ($472,175) and David Dinicola ($433,422).
· 92522, City of Riverside – two ‘assistant city managers’ each exceed $200,000 in salary- Deanna Lorson ($220,994) and Alfred Zelinka ($209,700). While in the utilities department, eighteen ‘power line technicians’ made $105,572 and their manager cleaned off $198,516.
· 94102, San Francisco – William J. Coaker, Jr. netted $507,832 as the Chief Investment Officer (CIO) for the City of San Francisco. In contrast, the CIO at CalPERS (California Public Employees Retirement System) only made $456,877 last year – managing the largest pension fund in the United States with $301 billion in assets. And, it’s good to be a truck driver in San Francisco. Thirty highly compensated drivers made $100,000 plus with Jeffrey Lamendola earning $184,767. Two city bricklayers made $106,681 and $101,460 respectively. Who knew that cities employed six-figure bricklayers?
· 90210, Beverly Hills – 326 municipal employees earned six-figures including Art Director Aram Chobanian ($114,318) and Events and Filming Supervisor Benita Miller ($103,841). But topping the list are the fire and police staff: David Grate, Fire Battalion Chief ($349,449), Charles Ratcliff, Fire Engineer ($344,223), and Scott Dowling, Police Sergeant ($320,758).
· 94538, Fremont – Levine Harvey, the City Attorney, cost taxpayers $419,394 with a $40,000 salary raise last year. 697 highly compensated staffers cost more than $100,000 per year with thirty over $300,000. Sixteen police and fire officers earned between $321,262 to $404,810. Even the ‘animal services manager’ cost taxpayers $186,422.
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In total, there’s roughly $35 billion in total benefit flowing to highly-compensated government workers when counting the 21,332 federal employees based in California with six figure salaries.
So, who are the biggest culprits in conferring six-figure salaries locally? We ranked the top 10 California-based units of government.
Last year, at Forbes, we showcased the highly compensated lifeguards in Newport Beach, and determined that maybe they are the only CA public employees truly earning their pay. But this year, we found 97 first-responder lifeguards in Los Angeles County making six-figures including chiefs/captains like Adam Uehara ($256,005), Daniel Douglas ($235,091), Fernando Boiteux ($183,062) and the ‘ocean lifeguard specialists’ like Jaro Snopek ($161,713).
The stories of taxpayer abuse seem endless.
The City of Santa Monica employs twenty-six highly compensated ‘motor coach operators’ in their Big Blue Bus division each earning over $100,000 – including Vicente Gutierrez ($128,971) and Norman Colomer ($126,922). To put this in perspective, a Greyhound operator makes between $40,000 and $52,000 per year and trainees in the Santa Monica bus system make $15.37 per hour, or $30,000 per year.
Driving the large fire equipment and trucks is even more lucrative. At the City of Los Angeles, forty-three ‘apparatus operators’ employed by the City of Los Angeles earned more than $200,000. The top earner was Michael Henry who made $356,846.
Overall, there are 2,032 six-figure employees within ‘utility’ districts and another 4,660 six-figure staffers within California ‘water districts.’ President of the Public Utilities Commission Charles Mills made $550,008 and his laboratory chief, Thomas Jonathan, made $400,003.
The Municipal Utility District of Sacramento that employs 985 six-figure public employees including CEO Arlen Orchard ($440,646), Chief Financial Officer James Tracy ($304,879), Chief Power Supply and Grid Operator Paul Lau ($301,507), Chief Workforce and Technology Officer Gary King ($276,123) and the Chief Generation and Grid Assets Officer Frankie McDermott ($269,574).
California community colleges, serving the strivers – students eating ramen noodles and working two jobs – are absolutely crushing the public pay system: 13,086 community college employees earn more than $100,000, including 178 who made more than $200,000. One of those highly compensated administrators, Thomas Fallo, retired last year aftercommunity outrage regarding his $346,895 comp plan.
California, like many states, is in trouble when it comes to its pension system.
California has over 2.7 million public employees either active (2.1 million) or retired (600,000 receiving a pension check). Yet, there are only 18 million jobs. Therefore, roughly one of every six ‘paychecks’ goes to a government employee or retiree.
All Americans must think twice now before heeding the historic advice of Horace Greeley, “Go West Young Man.” The sheer size of California’s public pay system may one day collapse under its own weight.
Adam Andrzejewski is CEO of OpenTheBooks.com. See the compensation for all 2 million California public employees on your mobile device by downloading our app, Open The Books – free for Apple and Android, click here.
Editor's Note: Even in Marinwood CSD, all of our top managers and many firefighters and top staff earn above $100k. Our pension obligation is completely unsustainable in its current form. The Marinwood CSD board has actually EXPANDED the payroll and full time employees. A hard rain is gonna fall.
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