City Manager Compensation

Is this your city manager's reward?

 Today’s OC Register contains a table indicating compensation packages for the city managers in all 34 Orange County cities. However, what the report overlooks is that 12 of the cities contract out police services to the OCSD. As such, they do not have the ongoing duties and responsibility associated with typical police service operations. 

Another area overlooked by the Register article is that 22 of the 34 cities are served by the OCFA. Those cities do not have the similar role in terms of fire prevention, equipment and staffing. Of the 8 largest (populated) cities only Irvine contracts out with the OCFA.

The city of Anaheim has around 250 or more employees associated with their fire department. The fire department of the city of Orange has a staff of 136 employees. Newport Beach, another city with its own fire department, has 154 employees.

Without providing details of the dozen cities with their own fire departments I would agree that having that additional oversight responsibility warrants higher compensation for city managers.

My fear is that each of our city managers will now have an easy chart to show their city council’s as they come up for review.

 Instead of setting wages and benefits based on unique performance they will simply point out that our peers are getting more than us and perform the same tasks. This results in upward creepage of all at the expense of the local taxpayers. At one time the city of Mission Viejo had unwritten policy that all new hires would be compensated at five percent above the average in an effort to get the cream of the crop.

How have these city managers weathered the current recession?

How many auto dealerships have disappeared?

The same question should be asked regarding big box and mall anchor stores?

How effective have they shown leadership in what watchdogs in Mission Viejo coined a few years ago. Simply stated. “Retain, sustain and gain” business for your community?

What changes have occurred in their General Fund reserve levels? 

Without knowing the history of each city I cannot provide an opinion on who is over or underpaid.  Case in point. While I believe the compensation package for our neighbor in Laguna Hills is excessive, I tip my hat to their city manager and council for their acquisition of a former bank building which is now their Civic Center and City Hall on El Toro Road that they acquired for around $6 million, if my memory hasn’t failed me. 

On the other hand our city manager supported a decision to waste between $300,000 and $400,000 to enter a float in the 2008 Rose Parade along with all the extras including trinkets that were left over after the event ended. We had over a dozen change orders on the expansion of our Murray Community and Senior Center that was originally to cost $3.5 million and ended up around $15.5 million. That lack of project cost control and oversight should not be rewarded.

The chart show Dennis Wilberg getting over $250,000 per year. In his last Contract Amendment, approved by the Council Majority on Feb 1st, they rewrote the clause on misconduct, which was defined as “dishonesty, fraud, self-dealing or willful misconduct.” It was replaced and redefined to only include misappropriation of funds or being convicted of a felony (involving “moral turpitude”). If he is terminated for reasons other than misconduct we must give him a lump sum severance payment of 9 months plus health care. Don’t get me started on the Mission Viejo City manager where I might be somewhat biased. 

While I commend the grad students for their city manager compensation report, investigative reporting requires peeling an onion which generally brings tears to our eyes. 

Note: The staffing data for fire departments in Anaheim, Orange and Newport Beach has not been verified. I obtained it from various web sites


About Larry Gilbert