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Sneaky Pay Raise

The Los Angeles City Council surely turned some skeptics into cynics by sneaking through a pay raise for itself, the city controller, the city attorney and the mayor without warning or debate.

Mayor Tom Bradley cooperated with the connivers by quickly signing the 10% pay increase. As of July 1, he will receive $88,778; the city attorney, $75,460; the controller and council members, $53,266. The salaries do not include the value of the trips, cars, gas, telephones, citizens’ band radios and other perquisites provided at public expense.

Competitive salaries attract better candidates to public service, at least in theory, so it is hard to begrudge the raises, even as the council scrounges money to pay for more street cops or complains of anticipated federal budget cuts. A citizens advisory panel said those officials were entitled to the largest pay increases allowed by the City Charter. What bother voters is that they did it on the sly.

The deception began when the council bypassed the normal procedure. Any proposed change in law is typically sent to committee where merits and demerits are openly discussed before it reaches the full council. But the motion for the pay raises was not on the regular written agenda nor was it given to the press.

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Timing contributed to the subterfuge. The council voted the day after the municipal election while attention was focused on ballot results. Councilman Ernani Bernardi, who is known for his opposition in these matters, was on vacation. Any dissent would have forced a second vote this week.

Also, the motion, which was referred to by number rather than by subject, was brought up only after 12 members were present so that action could be completed in one day. A vote of less than 12--council members Bernardi, Howard Finn and Joy Picus were absent--would have also forced a second vote and allowed time for public consideration.

The Los Angeles City Council broke no rules by approving the pay raises quickly and quietly. All it broke was faith.


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