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Ethics Director’s Pay

An editorial (“The Ethics Commission Is a Special Case,” Feb. 11) raised the issue of the salary for the Los Angeles Ethics Commission’s executive director, and advised the City Council to “leave the matter alone.” I’d like to set the record straight.

Your editorial stated that the council “cut” the $89,700 salary offered by the commission. In fact, the City Council never cut the salary. When the Ethics Commission was created, the council set the salary for its executive director at $76,254, and further directed that any higher starting salary would have to be recommended by the commission and approved by the council.

Before the name of the nominee for the post was known to me or any of my colleagues, I informed the general manager of the City Personnel Department that the council in general, and I in particular, were highly unlikely to support the higher salary. The reasons for this were simple.

First, the Ethics Commission can and will find an outstanding candidate for the job of its director at a salary of $76,254 a year. Where I come from that is still a lot of money. Moreover, given the city’s unique and generous compensation package, this salary will climb to nearly $85,000 in just six short months. This job is already a well-paying job.

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Second, we are trying to set a tone in city government for reduced expectations and spending when it comes to salaries and benefits. The city, like most cities around the country, is facing a massive financial crisis.

Eighty percent of the city’s budget can be attributed to salaries. How can we expect our 35,000 employees to tighten their belts and lower their expectations when we are not willing to demand the same “sacrifice” of this one employee?

The commission should find a qualified person for the job at the $76,254 salary, knowing full well that the salary will immediately begin to climb, making it one of the best-paying jobs in city government.

ZEV YAROSLAVSKY

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Chairman, Budget and Finance Committee

Los Angeles City Council


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