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MWD Board Clears Way for Pay Raises for Its Top Officials

Times City-County Bureau Chief

A divided Southern California Metropolitan Water District board cleared the way Tuesday for big pay raises for the general manager and other top officials. But, faced with angry protests from a substantial board minority, the district’s directors delayed a final decision on the increases until next month.

The board voted 24 to 19 for a pay scale formula that would allow General Manager Carl Boronkay a raise from his present $113,448 a year to a maximum of $144,852. But a board committee will meet in two weeks to discuss just how much of a raise should be given to Boronkay and five other district executives.

The meeting illustrated a new era for the powerful board, which runs a huge public agency providing water to Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego and Orange counties. For years, the board and staff functioned as a monolith, agreeing on a general policy of aggressive water acquisition to promote Southern California growth--and seldom disagreeing over how to accomplish that aim.

But in recent years, new board members have changed that chemistry. Some, from San Diego and Los Angeles in particular, disagree with old MWD policies. Others simply question traditional methods. They all came together this week to delay the pay raise for top brass, although granting a substantial boost for lower-ranked management personnel.

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Raise Called ‘Outrageous’

Before the meeting, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn protested in a letter to Chairman E. Thornton Ibbetson that the raise proposed for Boronkay “is outrageous and will trigger an avalanche of pay increase demands from public employees.”

The staff, with the apparent agreement of top board leadership, proposed the increase.

Robert A. Gough, assistant general manager, said that the salary increases would bring MWD managers’ salaries in line with those in private industry. “Yes, it’s a large number,” he said of the hike. “But when you are sitting on an organization as large as ours, and practicing the same managerial skills (as in similar organizations), we concluded it was a fair figure.”

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MWD officials produced a list of organizations’ chief executive officer salaries ranging from $104,472 for the head of the Los Angeles County public works department to $248,004 for the chief executive of the Arizona Public Service Corp., a private utility.

But director Robert Gottleib of Santa Monica objected to comparing public jobs to those in private industry, a point echoed by board newcomer Tim Brick of Pasadena, who said “public service is an honor and it is a responsibility that has its own rewards.”

Pay Would Top DWP Chief

He objected that the top figure in the category proposed for Boronkay would exceed the $138,312 salary of Paul Lane, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, whose department brings in “four times the revenue” and has more employees than the MWD.

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Director Michael Nolan of Glendale blasted Gough’s statement to the board that there had been no salary “adjustment” for the top executives for five years.

He noted that Boronkay had received yearly pay raises ranging from 4.5% to 10% since 1980 and Gough got hikes ranging from 4.5% to 10% in each of those years, as did the other top executives.

The board’s Organization and Personnel Committee will meet Sept. 24 to discuss the size of the increases.

Under the scale approved by the board, Boronkay’s salary would rise to at least $116,580, a raise of about $3,000 a year, and at the most to the top of the scale, $144,852. The three assistant general managers, now $96,432, could go to a maximum of $110,424; the general counsel, now $104,616, could go up to $123,096 and the assistant general counsel, now $91,332, could rise to $101,320.

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