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Huntington Beach had state's highest-paid municipal fire chief in 2009

July 21, 2011 |  6:30 am

Olson Huntington Beach's former fire chief earned the highest paycheck among municipal fire chiefs statewide in 2009, the most recent year for which there are data, state controller's office records show.

Duane Olson's hefty $363,608 paycheck is largely thanks to payouts for sick pay and vacation time he received upon retirement, and eclipsed the total compensation for fire chiefs in Los Angeles, San Jose and San Diego — the three largest cities in California, the Huntington Beach Independent reported.

Because Olson received his large payment in the year of his retirement, it is difficult to make apples-to-apples comparisons with California's still-working fire chiefs.

Olson's base salary during his last year of work, $191,349, is largely in line with those of his peers in California's larger cities. That number was nearly doubled by more than $70,000 in accrued sick time and more than $56,000 in accrued general leave, among other payouts.

In 2009, Riverside's fire chief earned $360,411, the second-highest rate in California. Anaheim's fire chief made $230,410, while Santa Ana's chief made $270,428. Each city is larger than Huntington Beach.

Olson's pay in 2009 did not increase his pension, but he already receives the maximum benefits based on his years of service.

Reached by phone, Olson defended his benefits package, saying it was something he negotiated over more than 35 years of work for the city of Huntington Beach.

"CEOs get stock options, access to private cars, incentive pay," he said. "They get their base salaries plus bonuses, which you never see, add up to a substantial amount of money. There's no way you can check into it."


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-- Mona Shadia, Times Community News

Photo: Former Huntington Beach Fire Chief Duane Olson. Credit: City of Huntington Beach