I am writing in response to David Mark Simpson’s Dec. 18 article (“Polachek to serve as interim city manager“). In the article, we learned that Assistant City Manager Elaine Polachek would be temporarily filling in the shoes of retiring City Manager Rod Gould effective Feb. 1, 2015, until his replacement is found.
We also learned that Ms. Polachek would be compensated in the amount of $27,452 per month, or about $329,000 per year; it was not made clear if that number included or did not include fringe benefits and other additional compensation that is customary for City of Santa Monica executives and employees to receive.
Indeed the City Council officially approved Ms. Polachek’s $27,452 salary the following month — at its Jan. 27 regular meeting — without much discussion — as a part of its consent calendar items for the evening.
Twenty-seven thousand dollars per month is a lot of money. Many people make that much money in a year. How was this $27,452/month figure calculated? When I took a look at the Staff Report for this agenda item (Agenda Item 3-J) — prepared by the City Attorney Marsha Moutrie, no explanation or justification for the 27K/monthly salary was provided to residents.
Were the salaries of other interim City Managers looked at? Was the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics database consulted? How about what executives in other branches of government make? Ms. Moutrie’s Staff Report did not provide any of this information; it stated that California law requires that the salary be “established” and “approved” in public; it then recommended for the $27K/month salary to be “approved.” It did not however inform the public how the 27K/month salary was “established.”
I did a bit of research and came across a document published a couple years ago by Congressional Research Service entitled “Legislative, Executive and Judicial Officials: Process for Adjusting Pay and Current Salaries.”
Here is what one learns: In 2011, the heads of Obama’s Executive cabinet (e.g. Secretary of Treasury) were compensated $199,700/year ($16,641/month); Supreme Court Justices were compensated $213,900/year ($17,825). Conversely, in the City of Santa Monica, our City Attorney makes over 300K/year; and our new interim City Manager is also making over 300K/year.
How is it that municipal public servants are making more money than our nation’s most senior government officials? Is running an 8-square-mile City government truly more complex than running the entire republic of the United States of America? With all due respect to the interim City Manager and the City Attorney: is the work performed by Elaine Polachek more intricate than that performed by Secretary Jack Lew? Is the work performed by Marsha Moutrie truly more valuable than that of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg?
At the Jan. 27 another item on the agenda was Item 8-B: in a nutshell, from my understanding of the item, staff was asking Council to make adjustments to the budget in order to avoid upcoming projected deficits. Deficits? But why? Without doubt, the unaccountable compensation and other fringe benefits and pensions of our City’s senior executives most certainly is a contributing factor. Rod Gould is getting a retirement package from Santa Monica taxpayers after only five years. Deficits? It’s time to take action. Santa Monica business owners and residents deserve better management of our tax dollars. And we need to start from the top — with executive compensation.
David Whatley Zepeda is a Santa Monica resident.