Burbank gave out $4 million in city bonuses since 2007
A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge in May ordered city officials to release bonus pay amounts for individual employees to the Burbank Leader, which sued to obtain the information. The city of Burbank had denied the newspaper's public records request, arguing that it would harm employee morale and violate workplace privacy rules.
On Thursday, City Council members noted that they had suspended bonuses for mostly executive-level employees for the coming fiscal year, given a budget in which library upgrades were put off, fire services were reduced and fees were raised.
"As a result of that, we are returning that money to city services which is important," Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy said. "Frankly, it was a very important step to take. Actually, it was critical. And we took it."
The records released by city officials reveal a work culture built around that bonus system, which for some employees has amounted to tens of thousands of dollars in the last four years alone.
Burbank Water and Power General Manager Ron Davis pulled in $79,000 in bonus pay during the four-year period, putting him at the top of the list. Davis' total salary in 2010 was $263,028.
City executives have defended the bonuses as an important tool in retaining top talent, but records show that the annual payouts extend to hundreds of employees, many of them rank-and-file, each year. Over time, the bonuses — which range from $30 to $22,000 at a time — can accumulate and add significantly to their salaries, and the city's pension obligations.
But the majority of employees who received bonuses this past year will continue to be eligible because the pay-outs are written into their union contracts. The City Council would have to renegotiate those terms to completely suspend the system.
-- Gretchen Meier and Maria Hsin, Times Community News
Photo: Burbank Water and Power General Manager Ron Davis. Credit: David Laurell / Burbank Leader