Glendale City Council members each took home an average $40,838 in taxable pay for their part-time jobs in 2009 — about $8,300 more than what the state says a charter city of its size should be doling out.
Glendale and other charter cities like it are exempt from the state pay guidelines, which apply to “general law cities” and are tied to a population-based formula.
But according to recent Los Angeles Times database published online, Glendale is among a group of cities that would exceed those state benchmarks, especially when other forms of compensation are taken into account. When medical benefits are factored in, City Council compensation increased to $51,874, according to data from the state controller’s office.
By comparison, general law cities are supposed to stick to annual base-salary limits that range from $3,600 to $12,000, depending on population.
According to a Los Angeles Times analysis of 2009 figures, most general law cities that paid council members more than the suggested state limit did so because they added medical, auto and other benefits to base salaries.
The salary range that would be acceptable under state pay guidelines could be even higher if council members gave themselves a 5% annual raise allowed by state law, an option many councils did not select.
The maximum monthly pay in Glendale includes work on the City Council at $1,100, the Redevelopment Agency at $1,400, and the Housing Authority at $200, as well as retirement pay of $200 and a car allowance of $525.
The amount paid for redevelopment agency activities appears to significantly exceed state guidelines.
Cities with populations of at least 200,000 aren’t bound by a state law that limits redevelopment agency pay to $150 a month. But while Glendale’s population once was more than 200,000, it no longer is. The U.S. Census Bureau and state Department of Finance put its population at about 192,000.
That means that the maximum pay for Glendale City Council members performing redevelopment agency duties should be $1,800 a year. City Council members in Burbank, with a population of about 103,000, made up to $450 each for the whole of 2009 for their redevelopment agency roles.
Glendale city spokesman Tom Lorenz said the potential redevelopment pay cut was currently under review.
Most council members said their paychecks were in line with the time and effort they put into their jobs. They also contended that anything less would limit the pool of qualified candidates who could afford to serve on the dais.
“That’s a pretty low amount in relation to the amount of work,” said Councilman Ara Najarian, noting that he spends about 30 hours a week on council matters. “Were you to lower it, you’d lose some of the people running. You’d just have the fat cats or the people that wouldn’t give a damn and just do the bare amount.”
Councilman Rafi Manoukian said although he didn’t run for office for the money, in the private sector he’d charge $350 per hour for his services, or about 15 times what he makes as an elected official.
Councilman Dave Weaver bristled when asked about the issue.
“Others can judge if it’s too much or not enough,” he said.
Mayor Laura Friedman said when compared to some smaller cities, her pay isn’t that much. She pointed to the average $75,361 pay for council members in Inglewood, a charter city that is about half the size of Glendale.
“It’s not a one-size-fits all equation,” she said. “Cities are different.”
Nearby Burbank’s average total pay for council members, including medical benefits, was $17,171 in 2009. That’s less than the state guideline of $24,382 for general law cities. Like Glendale, Burbank is a charter city.
Burbank’s council members don’t get a car allowance, receive approximately $1,360 less redevelopment pay per month than their counterparts in Glendale and are not compensated for housing authority meetings.