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Council moves to kill ordinance giving raises to top executives

High-level Los Angeles officials were scrambling Wednesday after the City Council approved an ordinance that could have inadvertently boosted the pay of its top executives — a move portrayed by Council President Herb Wesson as "a mistake."

The council voted unanimously for a two-year salary plan covering non-union employees. A document prepared for the council suggested that there would be three increases over the next 15 months — 2.75% in June, 2.75% in December and 2.75% in June 2015 — for about three dozen department heads, including top executives at the police, planning, parks, library and transportation departments.

After receiving questions about the document, Wesson released a statement saying he was upset that City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the city's top budget official, had inadvertently "included general managers" in the document. "That was never our intent," he said in an email to The Times.

Wesson said he directed Santana to correct the mistake and planned to have the council rescind the ordinance Friday and replace it with an accurately drafted document. Had Mayor Eric Garcetti signed the salary package for non-union employees, the raises would have automatically been awarded to every department head, Wesson spokesman Ed Johnson said.

Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman echoed Wesson's message, saying: "We understand the City Council plans to reconsider this matter, and we support that."

The vote created an especially awkward situation for the city's elected officials one day before Garcetti's first State of the City address. Santana and Garcetti have repeatedly argued that city employees should not receive any raises over the next three years.

The city faces a $242-million budget shortfall and salary negotiations are underway for several employee groups. Johnson said the salary package that received a vote Wednesday had been forwarded to the council from the city's negotiating committee — a group headed by Garcetti.

Santana said that under the City Charter, only Garcetti has the power to award raises to department heads. He said the document sent to the council "could have been more explicit" in stating that. The ordinance, Santana added, was intended to increase each department head's salary range, but not automatically increase their pay.

A chart sent to the council for Wednesday's vote included a spreadsheet showing pay for the city librarian increasing from $211,076 to $228,991 by June 2015; an increase from $227,049 to $246,300 for the planning director; and an increase from $345,731 to $375,047 for Police Chief Charlie Beck.

The document sent to the council also suggested that the plan would have, at a minimum, made Santana eligible to receive a $24,000 raise over the next 15 months, one that would boost his pay from $283,467 to $307,500. During the council meeting, Santana released a letter to Wesson saying that he would give up any increases in his salary.

david.zahniser@latimes.com

emily.alpert@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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