How many deputy mayors work for Los Angeles? Could it be four? Maybe six? Nine? Did someone say 12?
Ask around at City Hall, and the answer is all of the above. Or, depending on whom you ask, none of the above.
"What do we have, four?" Mayor Richard Riordan wondered. "Plus the chief of staff? Well, no, let's see. You have Ann D'Amato, Jennifer Roth, Bill Violante, Rocky Delgadillo. That's right. We have five."
Sounds a little like four, but who's counting?
A quest to count Riordan's deputy mayors before he leaves office on Saturday would seem the simplest of tasks.
It's not. The number of deputy mayors eludes not just Riordan, but many of the deputy mayors themselves.
Pay a visit to Riordan's inner sanctum at City Hall, and you'll meet deputy mayors who don't believe they really are deputy mayors. Down the hall, you'll find Riordan aides who call themselves deputy mayors, but who really are not.
Ben Austin, the undisputed deputy mayor for communications, is one of the few who dares to pinpoint an actual number--and Riordan's estimate of five would be off by one.
"There just simply are six deputy mayors," Austin said.
Down the list he went, ticking off the four names cited by Riordan, plus himself and the chief of staff, Kelly Martin. (Martin kept her title of deputy mayor when Riordan promoted her to chief of staff, a bit of trivia known only to City Hall's most die-hard insiders.)
But off in another corner of City Hall, Louisa Lund, spokeswoman for the city controller's office, scrolled down Riordan's payroll and counted the deputy mayors collecting paychecks from the municipal treasury.
"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12," she said. "Twelve. Is that what you count?"
Indeed, the payroll shows 12. Toss in Riordan's chief of staff and that makes 13. But who might those seven other deputy mayors be?
"I'm a deputy mayor," said No. 7, Jeffrey Walden. ("I was promoted to deputy mayor in about February. I'm very honored.")
"I'm a deputy mayor," said No. 8, Linda Bernhardt. ("It's a very politically sensitive issue for some people in the office.")
"I am a deputy mayor," said No. 9, Gaye Williams. ("I come to work and do my job and, beyond that, I don't really pay attention to what job titles people have.")
But Nos. 10, 11, 12 and 13--Jaime de la Vega, Bernadette Kirkwood, Theresa Patzakis and Steven Rubin--denied any claim to the title. ("I am not a deputy mayor," Kirkwood insisted.)
Who, then, might solve the mystery?
From the mayor on down, fingers pointed to Martin, the chief of staff.
"I'm the only one who focuses on this," Martin admitted.
By her count, there are six--the same ones listed by Deputy Mayor Austin. (Mayor-elect James K. Hahn has named seven, but "may appoint a couple more," a spokeswoman said.)
Yes, Martin conceded, the payroll lists 12 deputy mayors, plus herself. All but six, however, are simply "classified that way for payroll purposes. They don't have the title or the responsibilities."
The top range of salaries approved for employees of the mayor's office is for a category called "deputy mayor," but not everyone paid at that level holds the job title, Martin explained. (The 12 "deputy mayors" are paid $97,000 to $128,000 a year. Martin makes $150,000.)
When Martin signed off on raises for Riordan's top aides this year, several of them received letters saying they had become deputy mayors--even though they hadn't--and several construed that as a promotion.
"There was some confusion here," Austin said.
To clear it up, a crowd of deputy mayors and would-be deputy mayors gathered around a speaker phone and agreed there were six real ones. Walden announced with a trace of regret in his voice: "My official title is assistant deputy mayor."
How many assistant deputy mayors might there be?
Don't even ask.