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State attorney general probes more high salaries across California [Updated]

A top administrator in Alameda County, the retired city manager in Vernon and a public hospital executive earning more than $800,000 are among the local government officials whose pay and pension are being cited by Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown as justification for an expanded probe into executive pay statewide.

Brown announced plans Wednesday to review local government salaries of more than $300,000 and seek legislative reform that would cap public salaries and eliminate pension loopholes. He cited four examples involving managers, whom he did not identify by name, that received large amounts of compensation.

Those examples include an annual pension of more than half a million dollars for a former city manager;  a source close to the review identified the person as Bruce Malkenhorst Sr., the retired city manager of Vernon. Malkenhorst was once the highest-paid city official in California and rakes in an annual pension of $509,600, according to state records. He is awaiting trial on charges that he embezzled public funds in tiny industrial Vernon, where he rode to work in a limousine. Among the alleged illegal expenditures: massages on the public dollar.

Another example of an eye-popping salary was the $438,000 paid in a single year, including payments for unused sick leave and vacation, to a city manager in a municipality of 36,000 people. A source familiar with the investigation said the city manager retired last year from Beverly Hills. Roderick Wood stepped down in August 2009, and city records show he earned $438,571 that year.

Wood had vacation time and accrued sick leave payoffs of $140,290, according to a statement filed with the California League of Cities. After his retirement, he served as a contract employee until January 2010.

The attorney general also cited annual compensation of more than $420,000 for an unidentified county administrator. The source, who was not authorized to identify the individual, said the person in question is the county administrator of Alameda County, where Susan Muranishi has disclosed making $454,000. Muranishi did not return calls seeking comment.

Brown's fourth example was the more than $800,000 in annual compensation for the chief administrator of a public hospital. The source said the hospital in question is Washington Hospital in Alameda County, where Chief Executive Nancy Farber has been facing public criticism for months over her salary of $847,000.

Christopher Brown, a spokesman for the hospital, provided a statement by the hospital district noting that the elected hospital board found Farber's performance "exceptional'' and awarded her additional compensation.

"While Washington Hospital is a public entity, the hospital competes for its employees and executive leadership from the same labor pool as for-profit and large corporate healthcare providers,'' the statement said. "As a result, the hospital must pay market rate salaries to recruit and retain top-quality, professional staff.''

Representatives of the attorney general said that the four individuals are not under investigation and that their details were presented only to show the amounts being paid that might justify a broader review of government compensation.

The attorney general's office said the paychecks of many other government officials will also be scrutinized.

Amid the public outcry over Bell salaries, the League of California Cities has just released a survey of the compensation paid to city managers, and 16 of them, including Wood, reported total compensation of more than $300,000.

They included Robert G. Gutierrez, who retired in December as city manager of Moreno Valley and received $459,000 in compensation last year, including $183,000 in accrued leave that was paid off at his departure.

The compensation for some of those surveyed includes fringe benefits like car allowances and accrued leave, and is the amount they reported on tax returns.

Other city managers and their total compensation last year, according to the league survey, included:

-- Stephen H. Williams of Palmdale, $367,518.

-- Herbert Moniz of San Ramon, $359,669.

-- W. Craig Robinson, former city manager of Roseville, $353,000.

-- Shawn Nelson of Temecula, $336,288.

-- Jack Lam of Rancho Cucamonga, $324,582.

-- Bruce Channing of Laguna Hills, $321,550.

-- P. Lamont Ewell, former city manager of Santa Monica, $315,600.

-- Anne Montgomery of Mill Valley, $315,531.

-- Edmund F. Sotelo of Oxnard, $314,000.

-- Joseph Calabrigo of Danville, $310,029.

-- Paul Arevalo of West Hollywood, $309,203.

-- Jennifer Sparacino of Santa Clara, $303,513.

-- Linda Barton of Livermore, $302,472.

-- Gary Luebbers of Sunnyvale, $301,470 (an extra pay period was included)

Covina City Manager Daryl Parrish received $328,830 in compensation last year, but that included a "cash-out'' of vacation and sick time from a previous employer.

[Updated at 3:55 p.m.: The League of California Cities list includes city managers earning more than $300,000 in total compensation, not base salaries. The above list does not reflect those under investigation by Brown.]

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento and Richard Winton in Los Angeles

Photo credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (30)

Since the Atty General refuses to do his job and defend the State of CAs duly enacted laws in court, perhaps Jerry Brown can investigate why he is receiving a salary at all.

Sure lends new meaning to the term "public servant".

The reporters from the LA Times have done something that can only be discribed as "outstanding" reporting and research. those who have started this snowball can be very proud of themselves and should be "highly compensated" and rewarded for their work. Thanks for eventually saving the taxpayers of this state millions and millions of dollars.

The main reason these people get away with this abuse is because they put fear in the hearts of their subordinates who keep quiet or they embellish the salaries of their subordinates to keep them quiet. They also operate in secrecy. This also is evident in the case of school administrators who, on a whim, can reassign anyone who crosses them. School administators make outrageous salaries.

Are you sure Roderick Wood didn't take a vacation during that time or call in sick? During that whole time, he didn't go to the dentist, get a physical, had any kind of surgeries? Check his insurance statements. What kind of work did he do as a CONTRACT EMPLOYEE? Who approves these salaries?????? THEY SHOULD BE FIRED!!!!!!!!1

There should a formula that would incorporate population, property taxes paid and income paid to the city to set a standard salary base for city administrators that could be used as salary chart. I could see how some City Managers could earn more than other, but $400k plus is a bit much.

Why not investigate over 100K? Too many cronies just below 300K?

I'm curious how many public service retirement checks Brown is receiving or expects to receive and the dollar amounts.
Governor of Calif
Mayor of Oakland
Lt Governor
Governor of Calif (if he's elected again)

Why don't we just have have the public draw numbers to win government jobs? I mean if you get the job, with all the overpay, benefits, and overgenerous pensions, you've pretty much won the lottery, right?

What happened to Cooley? His office is closer to these incidents and he's done absolutely nothing. We are in serious trouble if Cooley becomes the Next Attorney General in California. Now doubt he will protect his friend Randy Adams.

It would seem that the Public Sector higher ups are no different then the greed we see on Wall Street. One wonders if this is the tip of the ice berg. Certainly, a review is needed on why these pin-head jobs require higher salaries then most engineering and highly skilled jobs in the technical and medical sectors.

After the election the investigations will disapear.

What is up with the Attorney General, it took him this long to go after the officials in the city of Bell, What or how slow will he react to any issues the State of California has? It is reported that he wants to recover back saleries and suspend some pensions, what a LIGHT Weight. Those City of Bell officials are nothing but Criminals and should be delt with in that manner.

I think there should be a formula to calculate these salaries such as population, taxes and other factors to prevent these high salaries. Public service does not mean corporate salaries. Most of these employees would not make it in the corporate world so they take city jobs and have been able to figure out how to beat the system. And this whole pension thing; the private sector doesn't offer that but the state does - hmmm, hence the budget problems for the state. Oh, and don't forget the kick-backs, the extra pay for being billingual; the car perk - yes, they actually get an allowance a month for a car usually about 500.00 a month - hmm, the city can't buy cars and have them use those cars, saving the taxpayers a lot of money?? In the end they get to keep the car!! What a great crime, I mean job! BTW what does an Assistant City Manager do???

Everyone needs to check out Monroviavotes.com They give the true cost of the city employees on their website. The majority of these people get 80 hours of personal leave that can be accumulated. The Covina City Manager cashed out 120K from his previous employer using this tactic. THIS NEEDS TO STOP! We cannot afford to continue this. Like Long Beach, we will be left without any services because all of our money will be going to pay for these crazy pensions and perks for these marginal government employees. We cannot allow this to go on. City council members should serve as stewards of their cities and should not be paid medical and pensions. You cannot have a public sector without a private sector paying for it and we say enough is enough. A Pulitzer prize goes to the reporters for the Times for uncovering this theft of public funds across the entire state of California. No wonder we are in such a mess!

These people are taking advantage of the people they are supposed to be working for. It sounds like to me they do not care about the people as they line their pockets with the peoples money.

Reading some of these comments its apparent that many of you have no reasoning ability at all.

You actually are making this about Jerry Brown? Holy Canoli!

I'll bet that Jerry forfeits his pensions. He forfeited the gov mansion, the limos and all the perks in the 70's. He inherited his wealth and has spent his entire life in public service. While you jerks have probably never even volunteered at the homeless shelter or picked up a piece of trash. Typical republican idiocracy. Vote against your best interests because you "think" you are better than the avg. person. But look in the mirror. Do you live in a 3million dollar house? Do you make over 500k a year? If you dont you're being played.

Great job by the LA Times to expose these crooks raiding the public coffers. I would like to see an investigation done on these so-called charter schools in the LA area. Some of the salaries being raked in by the Administrators, Teachers and "Special Consultants" at these schools is outrageous.

What about Inglewood ?

What about the City of LA? Also check the MTA salaries. Include the 6% pension amount that MTA pays into the CAPLERS retirement system to the salaries to get the correct amount.

Here is my suggestion. All city jobs should be outsourced to the private sector. Lets see how many of these suckers get close to what they are getting now. Any benefits would be paid by the private company. All elected officials should be considered part time volunteers with a minimal per diem, maybe $300 per month. No benefits for elected officials, they are public servants. They should have a full time job. No travel for any of these officials unless paid by the local chamber of commerce. Accepting of gifts would mean instant termination. I don't care how big the city is, we would get by, believe me.

I work for one of the entities mentioned & I find it insulting in the extreme that these cities are crying poverty when dealing with employees making less than $50,000 a year & facing layoffs while these goons rake in that kind of money.

From what i understand the City of Beverly Hills Purchased a home in Beverly Hills for Mr. Wood to live in while he was city manager. Must be nice not to pay a mortgage every month.

Epic fail by most of you posters. The exhorbitant examples cited in the article are at the high end. There's plenty on the low end. And you know what.....every single one of those contracts was done in open session and not behind closed doors. It's a democracy people. If you are upset at the salaries, then you must be upset at the citizens of those jurisdictions who were aslweep at the switch. And you must be upset at corporate America that pays it's executives an average of 4 million times more to outsource and slash middle class jobs. And finally look in the mirror people. If you have voted for anyone in a federal election in the last 30 years with an "R" next to their name, you must be upset at yourself for contributing to the outsourcing or slashing of some middle class job-- some place, some where. Maybe even yourself. Are you?

How about locking the maximum "public servant" salary to the median average income of the state which is currently just under 50K per year? Its like they expect the public's suspension of disbelief to continue indefinitely as long as they parrot how much of a sacrifice they are making by working for the government. Don't believe your lying eyes when the numbers come into public view, these poor people have to somehow scrape by on 100+K yearly and a 90% pension for life thereafter.

These ridiculously bloated salaries and pensions are yet another item in a long list of entitlements that need to go. And if someone dares mention a few days off per month, it is immediately evident by the reaction many government workers feel absolutely entitled to every taxpayer dollar that pays their salary. Sadly I agree with a previous commenter, this is nothing more than election year posturing. All these investigations will slowly fade away next year.

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