Quickly and quietly, Los Angeles City Council members voted 12 to 0 Wednesday to give themselves and other elected city officials 10% pay raises. Mayor Tom Bradley, who also gets more money, signed the raises into law on Thursday.
With attention focused on results of a just-completed election that gave the city its first Asian council member, the council, without discussing the issue or placing it on its written agenda, approved raises that will increase members' annual salaries from $48,424 to $53,266.
Under the new pay schedules, which take effect July 1, the mayor's salary will increase from $80,708 to $88,778. Two other salaries also were affected: the city attorney's, which goes from $68,600 to $75,460, and the controller's, from $48,244 to $53,266.
Ernani Bernardi, one of three council members absent during Wednesday's session, said he was not surprised by the way his colleagues handled the matter.
"It's not the first time the salary increases have been approved this way, bypassing committee hearings," Bernardi said. He was referring to the council's Personnel and Labor Relations Committee, of which he is a member, which normally handles salary matters before they reach the full council.
Bernardi said the matter did not come up in the committee.
"The reason it happens the way it does is because the council gets away with it," Bernardi said. "They hope that no one is watching and they quietly get it approved."
Besides Bernardi, council members Joy Picus and Howard Finn were absent Wednesday.
Councilman-elect Michael Woo, who will be the first Asian council member, was not present and does not take office until July. He defeated 10-year incumbent Peggy Stevenson, who was present for the vote Wednesday.
Councilman Arthur K. Snyder, who chairs the Personnel and Labor Relations Committee, brought up the pay raise item for a vote Wednesday. His motion for approval was seconded by Council President Pat Russell. Efforts to reach Snyder and Russell on Thursday were not successful.
The pay raises followed the recommendations of a citizens' panel, set up under the City Charter, to evaluate the salaries of city officials, said Chief Legislative Analyst William McCarley, who worked with the panel.
According to McCarley, the panel found that for the last 10 years pay raises for city elected officials have lagged behind those for non-elected employees.
Since 1974, McCarley said, salaries of elected officials have gone up by 51%, while other city salaries have increased 75% to 80%.
Moreover, McCarley said, the panel found that the salaries of elected officials in Los Angeles are significantly lower than those of their counterparts in the county and in other cities.
For example, he said, while council members here receive $48,424 a year, members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors receive about $72,000. And while the mayor of Los Angeles is paid $80,708, the mayor of San Francisco is paid $93,000 and the mayor of New York $110,000.
Under the Los Angeles City Charter, McCarley said, elected officials can vote themselves pay raises of up to 5% per year, or up to 10% for a two-year period. The council last approved a 10% raise for the period 1983-1984.
Between 1983 and July of this year, when the pay increases take effect, council salaries will have risen from $43,923 to $53,266, and the mayor's salary from $73,205 to $88,778.
Despite those increases, the citizens' panel that recommended the raises--called the Official Salaries Authority--also urged the council to initiate efforts to amend the City Charter to allow for larger annual raises. Such a change would have to be approved by a public vote, McCarley said.
McCarley said that recommendation was not considered by the council on Wednesday. He said he assumed it would be taken up later by the Personnel and Labor Relations Committee.