Commentary: Tom Hatch is again leading by example


On Tuesday night, the Costa Mesa City Council will vote on whether to give city CEO Tom Hatch a modest raise for the excellent job he’s done over the past two years.

But that’s not the real news story. He’s getting what’s called a single “step raise,” something employees in good standing automatically receive every year until they reach the seventh and final pay step of a particular job.

This is the first pay increase Tom has received since taking over the CEO position more than two years ago. If approved, it’s well-earned and overdue.


But what’s really newsworthy are the benefits Tom’s willing to give up to get his employment contract more in line with the economic realities today. Showing leadership by example once again (last year, he volunteered to pay the maximum legally allowed — 40% — to his pension, the first CEO/city manager in California to do this, I believe), Tom’s proposed amended contract includes:

•A reduction in his sick leave from 12 days to six days annually.

•A reduction in his primary sick leave bank from 480 hours to 221 hours.

•An elimination of his secondary sick leave bank. (This would result in a $4,800 annual reduction in Hatch’s current compensation since he is maxed out of sick days he can accumulate.)

•A reduction in his vacation cap from 424 hours to 320 hours.

•A reduction in his vacation accrual rate from 212 hours annually (5.3 weeks) to 120 hours annually (three weeks). This would reduce a potential compensated absence liability payout by about $10,000 annually.

Even with the reductions, Tom will have a generous benefits package that simply can’t be found in the private sector, to which hardworking Costa Mesa residents can attest. But if approved, his new contract would still be a major step toward fiscal responsibility.

How many stories right here in Orange County and Southern California have you read recently about public employees receiving six-figure payouts for vacation and sick days as they left their city posts?

Tom’s new contract prevents this and would be the first concrete measure to reduce Costa Mesa’s vacation and sick leave payout liability, which stood at $5.4 million on June 30, 2012.

The city has recommitted itself to traditional priorities: providing residents with quality services and infrastructure and providing its employees with quality but sustainable compensation packages.

I applaud Tom for providing leadership and personal sacrifice to make this happen.

JIM RIGHEIMER is the mayor of Costa Mesa.