Days after a report that city employees made more than $1 million in bonuses last year, the City Council on Tuesday asked for a report on how they are distributed.
City executives had defended the long-standing practice as an important means of ensuring high-quality work among the public workforce, and have pointed out that some groups of employees — such as police officers — are not eligible for the merit bonuses because they aren’t negotiated into their union contracts.
“That’s the way it needs to be to keep a high standard in our city,” Mayor Anja Reinke said.
Still, the council called for “careful discussion” of the program, and asked for information about how it operates. Included in the report due early next year will be an overview on spot bonuses for projects versus end-of-year evaluations, and the evaluation process.
The council also asked for information on the history of the merit-based bonuses and how long the city has awarded them.
“This is a very important, sensitive issue,” said Councilman David Gordon. “Is there a possibility that bonuses are given for something other than merit? I want to know the process.”
City officials have so far declined to provide the level of detailed information on the bonuses that Glendale has, citing employee privacy concerns. Without it, there’s no way to tell how much went to which employee.
Officials have declined a public records request filed by the Burbank Leader for the information.
Glendale posted information earlier this month on its employee bonus program for the past 10 years, with attorneys there citing the need for government transparency in the wake of the city of Bell scandal.
On Tuesday, officials pointed out the differences between Burbank and Bell in light of the release of limited information on bonuses paid to city employees last year.
Councilman Dave Golonski emphasized that the scandal in Bell involved criminal activity and corruption, and Burbank is involved in neither.
“There is no linkage between the two [cities],” he said.