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Applications Add Up for Residents Panel on Pay and Benefits at Santa Monica City Hall
By Niki Cervantes
May 31, 2017 -- A newly approved committee inspired by resident anger over high pay and benefits at Santa Monica City Hall is getting plenty of applicants, including a former City Manager from the 1970s and a former City analyst involved in labor negotiations.
As of Tuesday, the half dozen applicants for the Compensation Study Advisory Committee included former Santa Monica City manager James D. Williams and former City administrative analyst Homa Mojtabai.
Others who have submitted their applications are Janine T. Bush, Dominic A. Gomez, Sophia T. Le and Laurence E. Eubank.
Williams was Santa Monica City Manager from 1973 to 1978, coming from a two-year stint as Inglewood’s assistant city manager and, previously, Tustin’s city manager.
His applicant lists Williams as on the board of directors for NOMA and the Westminster Towers and Geneva Plaza Housing Corporation.
Mojtabai is a former City administrative analyst for the City involved at the time in labor talks on behalf of the agency shop board. Her application says she worked for the City for five years, the most recent of which appears to be 2015.
Bush is a member of the Northeast Neighborhood Association and says she has experience in preparing salary data for the in California Public Utilities Commission.
Gomez is also a member of Northeast Neighbors and an outspoken critic of the cost for total City employee compensation. He also is the Chief Executive Officer for Movius and says he extensive experience in the private sector pay and benefits.
Le is a CPA who manages finances for several local companies and owns and manages a spa downtown.
Eubank, who also applied for the expiring term of Planning Commission Chair Amy Nancy Anderson, is a member of the Bergamot Advisory Committee, the Wilshire-Montana Neighborhood Coalition and the Transparency Project, a local City Hall watchdog group.
Dogged by complaints about high City employee costs from neighborhood groups and watchdog organizations, the City Council agreed early this month to establish an ad hoc committee of residents to work with internal auditors on a review of pay and benefits ("Special Committee on City of Santa Monica Employee Pay and Benefits Approved," May 11, 2017).
It will work under the umbrella of the City Audit Subcommittee. The new panel has limited authority; it has no voting power and is meant only to help determine the scope of the review by City auditors.
For critics of City spending, the compensation committee is a rare chance to peek inside the workings of the City government and the way it chooses to offer pay and benefits.
The City acknowledges its workforce is highly compensated, but argues employees are highly educated and/or trained and provide services not offered by some municipalities, like bus and library systems ("Santa Monica Defends High City Salaries as Key to Quality Services," December 6, 2016).
City Manager Rick Cole is to select the residents’ panel. Although originally envisioned as having five members, the City might now add two more. Applicants must be residents.
The committee should be in place soon, since it is scheduled to first meet with the Audit Subcommittee on June 15.
Its formation is timely. Although the City’s employee compensation is a long-time issue in Santa Monica, the next few years include potential budget woes driven, in part, by employee costs that have soared past the inflation rate ("Santa Monica City Pay and Benefits Climb at Double the Inflation Rate, New Data Shows," May 2, 2017).
Costs for health care benefits, workers’ compensation and, in particular, pensions are adding up fast as growth of Santa Monica’s economy slows.
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