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Council, Villaraigosa to get 4.98% pay increase

October 27, 2006|Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writer

With elected officials in Los Angeles already among the highest paid in the nation, the state recently delivered more cheery news to city politicians: they will soon receive an additional 4.98% cost-of-living boost retroactive to July 1, thanks to the California Judicial Council.

The money will come on top of an 8.5% raise they are getting Jan. 1. In total, that means that by early 2007 the 18 elected officials in the city will have each seen their annual salaries increase somewhere between $21,000 and $28,000.

If the 4.98% raise is applied first and then the 8.5% raise -- as city officials expect it will be -- the salaries for the 15 full-time council members will go from $150,696 currently to $171,648; for the controller, from $165,765 to $188,812; for the city attorney, from $180,835 to $205,977; and for the mayor, from $195,904 to $223,141.

The council is already the highest paid in the United States and will now make more than members of Congress, who are scheduled to receive a 2% raise on Jan. 1, bringing their salary to $168,500.

The 51 New York City Council members, by comparison, make a base salary of $90,000 but can earn more by chairing a committee or serving as speaker. A law was introduced this week that would raise the base there to $112,500.

The increase also means that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will make more than the $206,500 that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would collect had he chosen to accept a salary, and more than Vice President Dick Cheney, who earns $212,000. (President George W. Bush is paid $400,000 annually.)

"Angelenos get a great value for their tax dollars from Mayor Villaraigosa," said mayoral press secretary Joe Ramallo. "He's the hardest-working mayor in America."

How salaries of elected Los Angeles leaders came to fall under the influence of a state judicial group involves some history.

In 1990, city voters approved tying the salaries to those for state judges as part of a sweeping reform package that created the city Ethics Commission. At the time, council members were making $61,522, and they tacked the pay proposal onto the ethics package.

Although the ethics package was approved by a large margin, some voters complained that the salary increase was disguised because the ballot asked only whether voters wanted to "relate city officials' salaries to salaries of Municipal Court judges" and never used a phrase such as "pay raise."

Robert Aquino, whose engineers and architects union staged a two-day strike in August over the city's refusal to renegotiate a contract, needed little prompting to offer a comment:

"I think it's a little hypocritical that the council would vote to impose the offer they imposed on [the union] but sets up a system where they can quietly take over 13% a year and don't have to take a position on it," Aquino said.

After reaching an impasse with the union, the council this year approved a new contract that gave the workers a retroactive increase of 4% with an additional 2.25% raise next year.

The latest salary increase for Los Angeles officials was rooted in the desire of judges to secure pay equal to others in the legal profession.

In 2000, then-Gov. Gray Davis told judges he would boost their pay by 17%, but only the first half of that increase was delivered before the state was hit with a fiscal crisis.

The second half, or 8.5%, was finally delivered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this year. The 4.98% cost-of-living increase came about because by law superior court judges receive salary adjustments equivalent to the average pay increase for California state employees.

Most elected leaders had not been informed of the pay raise as of Thursday. Told by a reporter about the hike, Councilman Tom LaBonge said, "I'm thankful for everything I get because it helps my family."

In fact, the elected leaders are not even the highest-paid workers at City Hall: at least eight top bureaucrats are paid more, led by Ron Deaton, who as general manager of the Department of Water and Power has a base salary of $322,533.

Glenn Bailey, a member of the Encino Neighborhood Council, said he recognized that many politicians in the city work hard. He suggested somehow tying salaries to economic growth in the city.

"That would encourage them to improve the overall economic well-being of the city," Bailey said, "because they would have a vested interest to do so."

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steve.hymon@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Top base salaries for city employees

Even with impending pay raises, elected officials won't be the highest-paid Los Angeles employees. That distinction goes to eight bureaucrats whose annual salaries are listed:

* $322,533, Ron Deaton, general manager, Department of Water and Power

* $257,999, Lydia Kennard, executive director, Los Angeles World Airports

* $256,156, William J. Bratton, police chief

* $255,884, William Bamattre, fire chief

* $246,026, Bill Fujioka, city administrative officer

* $244,797, Geraldine Knatz, executive director, Port of Los Angeles

* $234,357, Gerry Miller, chief legislative analyst

* $224,794, Andrew Adelman, general manager, Department of Building and Safety

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Source: Office of the City Controller

Note: The DWP on Thursday could not verify the salaries of five high-ranking officers that may put them in this range.

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