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Special Committee on City of Santa Monica Employee Pay and Benefits Approved


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

May 11, 2017 -- Creation of an ad hoc committee of residents to help guide an internal review of rapidly rising salaries and benefits for City of Santa Monica employees was approved Tuesday by the City Council.

Without comment, the council gave the nod to the temporary panel of five members of the public, an idea that rose out of increasing calls by a collection of critics to rein in total compensation for the City workforce of 3,088 full and part-time employees ("Santa Monica City Pay and Benefits Climb at Double the Inflation Rate, New Data Shows," May 2, 2017).

Costs for City Hall employees -- among the highest for California municipalities –- are being reviewed soon by the City’s internal auditors. It is being done at the behest of a subcommittee whose role is to add transparency to the City’s sometimes controversial spending practices.

Tuesday’s move to form the ad hoc committee passed as routine business.

But the first real battle is still to come: Who will be selected to serve on the committee? And will the members include any representatives of the loose coalition of groups which have zeroed in on City employee compensation?

City Manager Rick Cole first suggested the ad hoc panel as an olive branch to outspoken opponents of City Hall.

They include several neighborhood associations, local watchdog organizations like the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City(SMCLC) and Residocracy, which started as a slow-growth group but has broadened its issues to include City spending.

Cole is tasked with selecting the ad hoc committee. His timeline is short.

The ad hoc committee is to be formed and ready to assist the Audit Subcommittee by its next meeting on June 15, according to the City proposal outlining the process.
Those interested are required to formally apply.

Power of the ad hoc committee is limited. Members do not have a vote; they are meant solely to provide input on the scope of the internal audit.

And the relationships between Cole and critics, as well as council members and critics, are strained at best.

In fact, the primary aim of critics is to be appointed to the Audit Subcommittee itself. Composed of three council members and two residents with accounting expertise, the panel now has one opening following the resignation of its resident/CPA chair.

Two terms expire June 30. One is held by Council Member Tony Vazquez and the other by Frances Ellington, also a resident/CPA.

No applications have yet been filed, according to the City’s website.

The cost of City employees has been a long-term issue in Santa Monica. Pushed to a back-burner but feuding over development, the issue of employee compensation ramped up again after the November 8 defeat of slow-growth Measure LV.

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