The League of California Cities commented this week about the recent reports of excessive compensation paid to certain officials in the city of Bell.League President Robin Lowe, a Hemet city council member, said: "Like the residents of Bell, I was shocked to read the news accounts about the excessive salaries paid to certain officials in the city of Bell. While every public official and employee deserves to be paid fairly for their work, the salaries reportedly paid to senior administrators and the city council shock the conscience." Up and down California, ethical city officials are cutting services, eliminating positions, and reducing salaries to keep city halls open and provide vital local services to residents. The devastating recession, coupled with ongoing, fiscally irresponsible state raids of local revenues, has forced cities to take these actions. City leaders across California are taking responsible steps to keep their budgets in balance while meeting local service needs. League Executive Director Chris McKenzie added: "We applaud the residents of Bell for demanding accountability from their elected and appointed officials for the outrageous salaries being paid. The proper level of compensation is typically set in relationship to the breadth and complexity of the responsibilities of the position, length of experience, the level of education required, comparisons to cities of comparable size and with similar services, and other relevant factors. Cities frequently survey other similar cities to make sure they are paying within market rates. We are unaware of any city in the nation where salaries of this level are paid for comparable positions." Lowe continued: "The reported abuses are an embarrassment to the thousands of hard-working men and women in city government who are fairly compensated. These practices are the antithesis of what the League of California Cities stands for and represents. We support and offer our assistance to the Los Angeles County District Attorney and the California State Attorney General in their investigations of the lawfulness of these salaries in the city of Bell. The prudent management of public funds is a sacred trust and responsibility of elected officials. Situations like this appall all of us." The League of California Cities has worked closely with state leaders over the years in the enactment of the Ralph M. Brown Open Meetings Act and the Public Records Act. In 2004, the organization helped draft and strongly supported the passage of Proposition 59 making access to public meetings and records a fundamental constitutional right of the people of California. The League provides extensive training and assistance to city officials in open government (see www.cacities.org/opengovernment) and ethics in partnership with the Institute for Local Government, the research arm of the League and the California State Association of Counties. For more information, please visit www.ca-ilg.org/trust. McKenzie concluded: "City leaders stand ready to work with our state counterparts to craft a package of legal reforms and best practices guidelines to bring greater transparency to both local and state government decisions about compensation of public officials and administrators. State and local leaders need to collaborate to set the highest ethical and legal standards for how compensation is determined and set for state and local officials. The public deserves no less. The League's City Managers' Department has already formed an internal task force that is working on a series of recommendations that we expect to be sharing with our board of directors and the legislature in the very near future. The League looks forward to engaging our state counterparts and trust they want to set the same standard for open government and transparency in all branches of state government." Contributed by the League of California Cities.
********** Published: July 29, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 15