In a move that could some day mean automatic pay boosts for themselves and others, members of a Los Angeles City Council committee voted Wednesday to seek a private firm to revamp the way the city's 18 elected officials receive raises.
The outside firm--yet to be chosen--would study the salaries currently received by the elected officials and how they compare with those received by their counterparts in other large cities and executives in private industry.
The firm would then be asked to "review the appropriateness" of salary levels for elected city officials and recommend possible City Charter changes. Any change in the way elected officials are paid would need to be placed before voters as a Charter amendment.
Councilwoman Joy Picus said that because several council members feel uncomfortable about voting themselves pay raises, she would expect the firm to study how other governing bodies receive automatic pay hikes. She noted, for example, that the firm could recommend pay procedures for city officials similar to those used by Los Angeles County supervisors. Salaries of supervisors are tied automatically to the pay of the state's Superior Court judges.
Picus, who heads the council's Personnel and Labor Relations Committee, said an outside firm is necessary, even though such studies are normally conducted by the chief administrative officer.
"If they (city aides) were to do the study," Picus said, "then they are essentially studying their bosses' salaries, so there would be a big credibility gap there."
Picus, whose committee agreed to seek the outside study, said she did not know how much such a study would cost. After a bidding process, the full council will decide which firm will conduct the study.
Under current City Charter provisions adopted by voters in 1972, the salaries of the mayor, city attorney, controller and 15 City Council members are submitted every two years to a nine-member citizens commission called the Official Salary Authority. The panel studies the pay received by elected officials and makes recommendations for raises of up to 5% a year.
The Official Salary Authority has recommended the maximum annual pay hike each time. Its recommendations, in turn, have been routinely adopted by the City Council and approved by Mayor Tom Bradley.
Currently, Bradley receives a $93,216 annual salary; City Atty. James K. Hahn receives $81,505 and council members, as well as Controller Rick Tuttle, receive $55,929 a year.
Until the Salary Authority was formed, council members never found it easy to raise their salaries because of the political backlash that such actions often produced. Creation of the authority removed some of contention from the process because the council and the mayor were not, in effect, actually recommending that their own pay be boosted.