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Santa Monica Eases Jolt of Being Called to War : Reservists: The city will continue to pay civilian salaries to employees who have been called to duty.

January 24, 1991|DENNIS ROMERO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

On Tuesday, Santa Monica became one of only two cities in Southern California to offer to continue paying employees who are called to duty in the Gulf War.

The City Council unanimously approved a measure to ensure that city employees with financial responsibilities at home will have one less thing to worry about if they get called to war.

Of the eight reservists working for the city, two are stationed in the Middle East, and two more are expected to be shipped out soon..

Under the measure, employees called to duty can trade in their usually small military paychecks for their city paychecks.

The measure is retroactive to the beginning of the Gulf War, so the two employees already deployed, a police officer in the Marine Corps and a senior public works inspector in the Navy, can keep their families afloat at home.

The two other employees, both police officers, anticipate duty in the gulf region, according to city Personnel Director Karen Bancroft.

The council says it is unfair for reservists to be called from good jobs and good pay to risk their lives at a discount rate. "People called up in this fashion are victims of the war," said Councilman Dennis Zane.

According to Santa Monica Police Detective Shane Talbot, one police officer who expects to leave for the Gulf War this month on a U.S. Coast Guard mission earns about $4,000 a month. But his military pay, Talbot said, will be about $1,000 a month.

"This puts a severe financial hardship on these people," Bancroft said. "They could lose their homes."

According to city staff, only Redondo Beach has adopted such a measure, although on Wednesday the city of Los Angeles asked for a copy of Santa Monica's resolution so that it can consider similar action.

For Santa Monica employees on duty, the higher rate of pay will last until Jan. 22, 1992, when the council may extend the measure.

Bancroft said the financial effect on the city will be minimal. "We'll try to cover reservists' positions by assigning overtime and hiring temporary help if necessary," she said.

According to city staff, reservists called to duty are expected to be gone six months to a year. But staff members added that Congress has given President George Bush the authority to keep reservists on active duty for up to two years.

Mayor Judy Abdo, who supported the salary measure, will propose next Tuesday that the council sponsor a forum where residents can debate the merits and flaws of Bush's decision to go to war. "It's on everyone's mind," Abdo said.

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