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Santa Monica Citizens’ Panel on City Hall Salaries Set to Get to Work


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

August 22, 2017 -- An unusual citizens’ panel created to help review salary packages for Santa Monica city government employees -- among the highest of California municipalities -- is scheduled to formally take on its task Wednesday.

The seven-member Compensation Study Advisory Committee (CSAC) will meet with its bosses, the City’s Audit Subcommittee, at a special joint meeting on to discuss the parameters of an analysis of wages and benefits for City employees.

The session is at 6 p.m. at the Santa Monica Institute Training Room, 330 Olympic Drive, on the 2nd Floor (or Plaza Level).

Under increased pressure over its payroll costs -- already high and escalating -- the City Council agreed to the formation of the ad hoc committee in May ("Special Committee on City of Santa Monica Employee Pay and Benefits Approved," May 11, 2017).

The members are to work with the Audit Subcommittee as it decides exactly what the City’s auditing firm should review regarding employee compensation.

Although some of the ad hoc committee members are active with neighborhood associations, which have been highly critical of City spending and other issues, the panel will have extremely limited power.

Members cannot vote, a report for Wednesday’s meeting by City Finance Director Gigi Decavalles-Hughes said.

Still, the panel’s members “would be able to ask questions of staff and the Internal Auditor, and make suggestions regarding scope,” her report said.

They can also “ask questions regarding initial findings and the final report,” she said.

CSAC convenes three times to “discuss the scope of the project, to discuss the initial findings of the review, and to receive the final report,” her report said.

As of now, the City’s auditor -- the firm of Moss Adams LLP -- has proposed a review including comparison of wages and benefits across 19 peer cities, as well as documenting the factors that “drive the size of staff and compare the methods by which the City provides services with those of peer cities,” she said.

The review also would analyze how and why overtime has been used by public safety personnel over the past three years.

Staff anticipates that the Audit Subcommittee will consider initial findings at its October 17 meeting, and receive the final report at its January 16 meeting.
CSAC members would be present and participating in deliberations during these meetings.

Its members are Dominic Gomez, Laurence Eubank, Janine Bush, Libby Bradley, James Williams, Sam Thanawalla and Homa Mojtaba.

The Audit Subcommittee is comprised of three council members -- Sue Himmelrich, Tony Vazquez and Pam O’Connor -- and two residents who are CPAs. They are Elizabeth Van Denburgh and Greg Morena.

The City has an estimated 2,200 fulltime employees.


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