Four top city officials are going to have to wait a few months longer before the City Council decides whether to give them pay raises ranging from 5% to 28%.
The council voted, with a single dissent, to have one of its committees reconsider whether the proposed raises are justified and present its findings during budget deliberations in June.
“This is a bit of a political hot potato,” said Vice Mayor Wallace Edgerton, who led the study that resulted in the pay recommendations. “We have the responsibility of oversight of other elected officials.”
Three of the officials involved in the pay raises are elected--City Atty. John R. Calhoun, City Auditor Robert E. Fronke and City Prosecutor John Vander Lans. The fourth, City Clerk Shelba Powell, is appointed.
Powell would have received the biggest percentage pay increase, 28%, which she said would have brought her salary in line with those of other city clerks around the state. Her pay would have increased from $52,216 to $66,788. Calhoun’s annual pay would have climbed 15.8% from $99,804 to $115,640, Fronke’s salary would have gone up 11.4% from $84,416 to $94,007 and Vander Lans’ pay would have increased from $92,072 to $96,636.
Among the 20 highest paid city officials, Calhoun is fourth on the list. The raise would have put him in third place.
McJunkin Highest Paid
Vander Lans ranks seventh and Fronke, a certified public accountant, is 20th. The highest paid official is James H. McJunkin, former Port of Long Beach executive director, who last year was named international trade consultant for the port. He earns $120,050. City Manager James C. Hankla is the second highest paid official, earning $118,218 a year.
Councilman Evan Anderson Braude asked that the pay raises be delayed until the city budget is considered.
“I’m not sure all the proposed salaries are excessive. I do have a problem with some,” Braude said, declining to be more specific.
But Councilman Ray Grabinski, who cast the single vote against reevaluating, chided members for not rewarding officials who have guided the city through difficult financial straits.
“We’re abdicating our responsibility,” Grabinski said. “We have an obligation to the taxpayer. We also have an obligation to the people whose salary we’re supposed to set. . . .”
Some council members expressed reservations about the methods employed to decide the levels of compensation. In particular, they questioned whether to adopt the proposal to tie the city attorney’s salary at a level that would be 98% of the city manager’s salary and increase the city auditor to a level 6% above the appointed position of director of financial management.
The city prosecutor’s proposal called for a straight 5% increase, while the city clerk’s proposed 28% was based on a comparison of city clerks elsewhere in major cities around the state.
The officials themselves provided justification for their proposed raises in letters to the council.
Calhoun, for instance, produced a study by Hay Management Consultants of Los Angeles that recommended his salary be increased to $130,000 a year. The study found his salary to be lower than some other city attorneys who supervise smaller staffs and even at the higher level, it would be 20% less than he would receive in a position of similar responsibility in the private sector.
Calhoun tersely said “no comment” after the hearing.