Yesterday’s OCR Editorial lauds Brea council members for giving back the recent raise to their flex benefits that they accidently awarded themselves several months ago… $450 a month retroactive all the way back to January.
Then the editorial slaps their hand because their action lacks the force of law.
Though Mayor Moore and council member Simonoff have been trying to get this matter onto an agenda from the moment the blooper was discovered, they’ve gotten nothing but the cold shoulder from Schweitzer, Garcia and Murdock. Now, finally, it appears that the subject might land on an agenda sometime in early January.
First, it was discovered, through a public request to review city files, that there was no documentation of council members decisions – which flies in the face of all that is auditable. In a kneejerk reaction to rectify this faux pas, Finance Director Gallardo emailed council members requesting written confirmation of what purportedly had been only communicated verbally.
Yes, all five council members are rescinding the raise, but no two are taking the same approach. I placed a call to all five, to give them the opportunity to clarify their decisions, and only Moore and Simonoff were courteous enough to respond.
Individual, unbinding choices.
Mayor Moore asked to have his flex benefit returned to the previous $1,050 per month beginning November 1st, but did not return the $3,600+ he had received thanks to the retroactive benefit. This does not rescind the raise, he can ask to have it reinstated next week if he chooses.
Mayor Pro Tem Schweitzer asked that the $450 per month raise be suspended immediately, and that all payments to him including salary and flex benefit also be suspended until the retroactive payments he’d already received were returned to the general fund. This does not rescind the raise, he can ask to have it reinstated next week if he chooses.
Council member Simonoff asked that his flex benefit be reduced to only $159 per month, well below the $1,050 authorized before the $450 per month raise, not only until the retroactive payments were reimbursed but in perpetuity. He did reserve the right to alter this request. This does not rescind the raise, he can ask to have it reinstated next week if he chooses.
Council member Garcia merely asked that his flex plan amount be adjusted back to the level allowed before the raise and that his stipend be withheld until the retroactive payments were reimbursed. This does not rescind the raise, he can ask to have it reinstated next week if he chooses.
Council member Murdock simply wrote, “Please set my flexible benefits compensation at $1,050 per month.” No mention of reimbursing the $4,500 in retroactive payments already received. This does not rescind the raise, he can ask to have it reinstated next week if he chooses.
That’s right, without asking anyone’s permission and by sending a simple email to the Finance Director, any or all of our council members could kickstart the raise.
So, where does that leave us?
Pretty much hosed comes to mind. Unless council takes formal action to rescind the raise, current and future council members are free to slip their hands back into the proverbial cookie jar whenever it suits them.
I believe that this issue about the raise, which I now know was no unwitting mistake by those who voted for it, is little more than a symptom of a much greater systemic problem that we’ve heard about during matters from the audience for several years now. The majority of the Lollipop Guild pretty much sings and dances to whatever tune de jour the Wizard plays.
The real issues?
How valid is that ten city survey anyway? What is a fair and reasonable level of compensation for those “public servants” taking on the part time responsibilities typical of any small town city council? What sort of fringe benefits should come with the job and should they be tied to the executive staff compensation plan? Should there be any retirement plan after leaving office?
It’s issues like these that cause this avoidance behavior, this continued unwillingness to hold a civil discussion in a public forum where Brea’s residents can speak their piece, without fear of being insulted, demeaned or dismissed as being one of the crazies.
And they should get ‘er done before the all the pomp and political foreplay of their reorganization in December.
If this, or any council, is unwilling or unable to take back the reins of government, then let them hit the yellow brick road.