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Highly-paid Vernon official's ties to firm owned by wife probed

August 28, 2010 |  8:11 am

One of California's highest-paid public employees has been relieved of his duties while Vernon officials conduct a "comprehensive review" of his and his wife's financial dealings with the well-heeled industrial city.

In addition to his annual salary of more than $380,000, Donal O'Callaghan, a city administrator, also received $243,898 in consulting payments from the city through the first half of this year.

The additional money came because of a pay structure that allowed him and other top Vernon officials to bill for extra hours worked each month. O'Callaghan billed $300 an hour for time worked in excess of 160 hours a month — an arrangement equivalent to overtime that is unusual for salaried workers and all but unheard of in the public sector.

The $243,898 was paid through Tara Energy Inc., a consulting company headed by O'Callaghan's wife, Kimberly McBride O'Callaghan, according to city documents reviewed by The Times. Vernon officials were at a loss Friday to explain why the payments had been routed through Tara.

"Part of what we are going to be looking at in terms of this review is why was that done and how did it get accomplished," City Atty. Laurence S. Wiener said.

O'Callaghan was Vernon's city administrator and director of light and power until July 21, when he abruptly stepped down to become head of capital projects for the city-owned power plant.

He had a similar two-tier pay system last year, when he earned a salary of $388,000 and additional consulting payments of $396,378. That works out to 1,321 extra hours, meaning that if O'Callaghan had worked every week of the year, he would have been claiming 25 extra hours each week.

For this year, O'Callaghan billed for 100 to 126 excess hours each month from January through June, earning about $30,000 to $38,000 per month in fees paid to Tara Energy, according to records obtained by The Times this week. He did not take a single full day off during the first six months of this year, according to his billing sheets, which show hours worked under "standard time" or "contract service," or some combination of both, on every date from Jan.1 to June 30.

Read the full story here.

--Kim Christensen and Sam Allen

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