Lets play connect the (city attorney) dots (UPDATE: Bell/Covina attorney resigns from firm)

Just noticed that Edward Lee, the former city attorney for Bell who is also the city attorney for Covina, is a partner with the law firm Best, Best and Krieger.

You know who else is a partner with BB&K? Sonia Carvalho, city attorney for Azusa.

It isn’t necessarily fair to lump Carvalho in with Lee, considering Azusa doesn’t pay its city manager $800,000 or its city council $100,000 annually. But it is interesting to see how intertwined various city administrations are throughout Los Angeles County.

UPDATE: Thomas Himes just reported the news that former Bell attorney and Covina city attorney Edward Lee has resigned from BB&K.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

(Announcer voice) And now… Weekend Roundup (dun dun)

After a survey of city manager salaries across the San Gabriel Valley, Pasadena and Whittier areas (coverage area for our three newspapers) none are making Bell type salaries, but no one is going hungry (or without a six figure salary) either.

Baldwin Park City Council members said Friday they want to hear from citizens before drafting a vehicle impound policy for the Police Department. Baldwin Park police Chief Lili Hadsell is scheduled to brief the council Wednesday on her department’s vehicle impound policies, according to city documents.

And yet another story that shows what goes around, probably came around because of Bell.

Amid revelations that Bell city officials skirted state salary limits by becoming a charter city, Covina council members are shying away from the idea, which was up for their consideration.

UPDATED: Local FYI: Azusa has gone dark, that is to say, they canceled their council meetings in August. La Verne canceled tonight’s council meeting, but will be meeting again on Aug. 16.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

Glendora library director reacts to story, comments on new salary schedule

It is e-mail day here at Leftovers. Here is another one, but this time it is from the head of a Glendora department, one of the people affected (some opponents might say benefiting) by a new salary schedule and style of merit increase for city department heads that I reported in Friday’s newspaper.

The letter is from Library Director Robin Weed-Brown, who is the only department head who has received her max amount of merit increases under her previous agreement, and would now be eligible under the new plan for another round of increases.

Here is her letter, printed in full, unedited.

Re: Glendora Pay Hikes

I love Glendora and the job I have as their Library Director and department head. The Glendora community welcomed me with open arms 10 years ago and I have never looked back. Working for them and being part of their lives has enriched my life in ways I could not have anticipated. I am a professional librarian by passion, not by pay check.

My name was mentioned in your article on pay hikes on July 30 and I feel it is important to clarify points as they apply to me. I was hired as a civil service employee, and am not on contract as the other department heads are. The contract department heads have their salaries and benefits individually negotiated when hired and then adjusted annually thereafter.

I reached the top of my position’s established 5-step pay scale many years ago. Since then I have received cost-of-living increases when given to all city employees and one adjustment based on a ‘compensation & classification’ study done city-wide. I have not received a raise in several years. My vacation time is allocated based on years of service, as are all civil service employees.

The salary and benefit schedule approved by City Council on Tuesday July 27 was truly a step towards improved transparency in local government. Mr. Jeffers should be applauded for recommending it. Raises for department heads, however, should have been put on hold last year and this year in solidarity with other city employees who have taken cuts, in my opinion. Not that anyone asked.

Robin Weed-Brown, Director

Glendora Public Library

Check out letters from angry readers on this same subject here.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

Reader e-mails (people are angry about Glendora’s salary decision)

A lot of people aren’t happy about Glendora’s recent decision to change the way it does merit increases for its department heads.

While the city believes the new plan adds transparency while forcing department heads to “excel” rather to just perform satisfactory work to get a raise, many people are writing in complaining about how the city is doing its department heads a favor.

Here are some of the e-mails I have been getting today on the subject.

(e-mails are unedited)

“I believe that all of the directors are at step one of the new salary schedule and will be eligible for increases this fiscal year as their anniversary dates come up. If you look at their old salaries (published on the website- Google “Glendora Salaries”) most were hired by contract at a flat salary without any merit steps. All of these were placed on step one of the new schedule which makes them eligible for merit increases as they come up for annual review this year.” – Leonard (redacted)

“We live in Glendora, We think that the city of Glendora is criminal in what they are doing to increase the managers salaries and then lay off five employees???? What is wrong with these people?? I don’t care where the money is coming from. These five people should be reinstated now…..I am truly ashamed of our leaders…” – Edward and Gail (redacted)

“Not only did they lay off employees they are also making the other employees take furlough days and are making them pay their own pers. Why should the rich get to line their pockets while the lower men have to suffer and struggle to pay their bills and feed their families. I think it is very distasteful that they would approve this and just weeks before giving sob stories about how hard it was to lay off employees. There is something just so WRONG about the whole thing.” – Diana

PS – I would love to do a reader e-mails post once a week, but I get so very few e-mails from people who express their opinions on things I write about. If you do send me an e-mail on anything on this blog or anything written by me in the Tribune, I may want to use it in the future. You were warned.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

Glendora sets a standard for department head’s raises, should you go all Bell on them?

In tomorrow’s paper there will be a story about a new salary schedule for department heads in Glendora.

The issue has become something of a controversy, in part because the city is in the midst of heated negotiations with its employee’s association (which is none to happy with this plan) and also because of Bell.

Anything with the words “city” “employee” “salaries” is going to be heavily scrutinized right now, which makes it harder to decipher if an idea is good or not. People are going to hear the word “raise” concerning a city employee and automatically jump out of their seat. Talk about themselves getting a raise at their 9-5, and it would be a different story.

I am not saying Glendora’s plan is either good or bad, innovative or not. But in times like these, sometimes the assessment of issues is better under objective eyes than reactionary emotions.

As for the plan, you can decide for yourself when you read about it in tomorrow’s newspaper. Here is a glimpse.

GLENDORA — The City Council unanimously approved a pay raise schedule for department heads to increase transparency and incentives for those positions.

The plan sets up a method and schedule for raises for eight city department heads: community services director, deputy city manager, finance director, library director, planning director, police chief, public works director and city clerk.

Previously, raises for department heads were at the discretion of the city manager and could be done without the public’s knowledge, City Manager Chris Jeffers said.

“I have felt uneasy with that much potential leeway,” Jeffers said. “I am trying to bring some transparency … and this was all started before Bell.”

City employee salaries have been under scrutiny in the wake of the pay scandal in Bell, where it was found that the city manager was making close to $800,000, and others were receiving salaries far above the average for their positions.

But opponents of Glendora’s new salary schedule believe the plan is a way for the city to ensure higher salaries for department heads while the city has laid off employees.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

El Monte getting what it’s owed

You know that friend that is constantly not bringing enough money for dinner or always needs some help buying his movie ticket or paying rent? Well, it seems Phoenix Waste and Recycling Services was kind of like that friend to El Monte. Except in this case, while you were letting your buddy slide on rent, you also had to fire the maid.

The trash service is selling its route to Valley Vista Services and will finally pay back some $500,000 to $1 million to El Monte in debt the company racked up.

I could insert various movie or T.V. references here in regards to owing someone money, but I’ll pass and instead skip to a quick preview of the story and a link.


EL MONTE – A large debt long-owed to the city by one of its trash collection companies is finally getting paid.

Phoenix Waste and Recycling Services, which collects waste from homes and businesses in various parts of the city, is selling its route to Valley Vista Services, which already collects trash in other parts of El Monte.

That transaction means Phoenix’s growing past-due bill with El Monte will get paid, according to city manager Rene Bobadilla.

Bobadilla would not reveal the amount of the total debt, saying the final accounting is still in the works. Estimates from council members and employee union watchdogs range from $500,000 to $1 million.

The debt comes from unpaid franchise fees owed to the city, as well as fees required under state law mandating recycling, the city failed to collect for years.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

This is your side of the council chamber and this is our side…

14890-rocha.jpg

In the future, if you want to walk to the Azusa City Council dais and speak to your favorite councilman (for handshakes, serving petitions, autographs or general public scolding) you may have to practice your limbo skills … or just ask for assistance.

One thing that Mayor Rocha questioned at Monday’s council meeting – and garnered a couple laughs from the audience – was a provision in the 2010/2011 budget that called for some updates to the City Council chambers.

The $31,000 allocation included, among other things, a kind of barrier or rope line between the audience and the council.

The line would probably consist of the same thing you see at banks or movie theaters used to organize lines, but in this case would be used to keep people away from the dais, unless allowed, City Manager Fran Delach said.

It was recommended by Azusa Police Chief Robert Garcia.

“It would be similar to the board of supervisors hearing room,” Delach said. “We committed to the Mayor that any tentative plans would be brought back to council.”

While Delach said other venues use such things, giving the example of the Los Angeles County Supervisors hearing room, other council chambers like Glendora, Duarte, La Verne, El Monte, Rosemead, and South El Monte don’t have barriers. Some cities, like Walnut, do have something that separates the audience and council members.

Delach was clear in saying it wasn’t something meant to decrease transparency or public access and whatever was put in would be removable.

“We are not going to put glass up or anything, no wall,” he said. “It is a number of measures to help improve security and technology of the council chambers.”

Besides the rope line, the $31,000 includes updating computer monitors for council members at the Dais, among other improvements, Delach said.

What do you think? Is this a wise use of city funds in the name of safety and modernization?

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

Morning round-up

Residents in Bradbury, Duarte, El Monte, Irwindale, Monrovia, Rosemead, San Gabriel, San Marino, Temple City and some Los Angeles unincorporated areas are being hit with a 56 percent water rate hike. Read more.

As some cities struggle to get their tagging under control, West Covina has been combating it with volunteer Glenn Kennedy, the police department and the hired clean-up company. Read more.

San Gabriel Valley’s only pot dispensary closes up shop after a judge granted a temporary restraining order. Read more.

Montebello OKs metal recycling plant in an industrial area. Read more.

Newly appointed Labor Secretary Hilda Solis will come back home at 2 p.m. on Saturday and give a talk at La Puente High School titled, “Pathways to Success: Achieving Goals through Education.” Solis was the first in her family to go to college and attend Cal Poly Pomona. Read more.

 Baldwin Park Mayor Manny Lozano cleared by District Attorney’s office, which investigated a 2007 trip taken by Lozano to China.  Read more.

Retiree medical costs total $11 million in 24 SGV cities

Medical costs for retirees is increasing, the LA Times reports.

Meantime, 24 local San Gabriel Valley cities are facing a $11 million tab this year to pay for their retiree medical benefits, and that bill is expected to climb as the number of retirees increases, life extectancy rates grow and health-premiums rise. Half of those cities face a total bill of $204 million for future medical benefit costs. Here is the story.

Retiree medical and pension costs in the SGV cities

Here’s a spreadsheet I developed by requesting retiree medical costs, annual pension costs, unfunded pension liabilities and unfunded medical liabilities from 24 public agencies in the San Gabriel Valley and Whittier areas:  
 

 
Retiree costs city by city.sxc
 

Depending on space issues, we will print my story this weekend that details how much 24 area cities spent on retiree medical costs, and of those cities, how many have started planning for the future retiree medical costs – which will only increase due to rising health care premiums, increasing life expectancy rates and a growing retiree base.

Santa Fe Springs shows us a slide, Santa Fe Springs.ppt,
 of what will happen if it starts paying for these long term costs, estimated at nearly $55 million, today versus what will happen if it continues on a pay-as-you go approach. That is, pay for the expenses as they come year-by-year. Problem with the pay as you go approach is that eventually these costs could overwhelm some city budgets.

These costs will vary from city to city for several reasons: number of retirees, number of employees, services offered by the city, such as having its own police or fire departments, and types of benefit plans offered.

The spread sheet is still a work in process…I’m now collecting the number of current employees to get a better understanding of why some cities have the pension costs they do. The pension story will come later.

(City administrators: If you see any figures that are incorrect, please shoot me an email so we can correct them. Thanks!)