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Neighborhood Organization and Union-Watcher Join in Verbal Attack of High Pay


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By Niki Cervantes
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May 8, 2018 -- A key neighborhood organization and a new ally, a group fighting the influential hotel-workers union, is pushing back against the City of Santa Monica after an outside audit of City finances.

The audit found City workers were among the highest paid in Southern California, but not necessarily the most productive ("Outside Audit of Employee Pay at Santa Monica City Hall Heads to Council," May 7, 2018).

The audit, by Moss Adams, goes to the City Council tonight at its regular meeting in City Hall Council Chambers at 1685 Main Street.

Public business does not begin until 6:30 p.m. as the council convenes for a behind-door session to discuss such matters as litigation first.

Conducted by Moss Adams, the final version of the audit leaves in its trail some unhappy parties from a citizens committee -- and those sympathetic to them.

"We are paying far more than residents of other cities for our local government," wrote Tricia Crane, who sent the report as an alert to all members of the Northeast Neighbors Association Tuesday morning.

"This reality should hit hard tonight when City Council discusses the final report on Santa Monica City salaries by an outside expert.”

Crane signaled out the City's Office of Sustainability and Environment, which had 20 employees and an operating cost of $4.6 million in the past fiscal year. The average cost for peer cities was $377,539.

“Where did City Hall get a public mandate to operate as a costly laboratory for ‘ innovation’?’’ Crane’s letter asks.

“Perhaps the time has come for resident taxpayers to question whether we can afford -- or if we WANT to pay for -- the huge size of this City staff, the high salaries of those at the top, and the costly vanity projects City Council routinely pursues.”

The audit's findings also angered Eyeson11, a group established recently to track the activities of the union rapidly representing hotel workers in Santa Monica and elsewhere.

It contends the union is championing more big hotels -- routinely fought by residents -- so it can bankroll membership dues ("New Anti-Labor Online Site Attacks Hotel Union for Pro-Development Push in Santa Monica," January 4, 2018).

“Residents have long suspected that city employees’ astronomical pay is linked to the rise in union-backed hotel developments -- and tax revenues they bring,” said Luka Ladan, who heads the effort.

“Left out are the voices of the residents who find themselves silenced by Local 11 and its allies,” he said.

Members of a citizens advisory committee who watched as the audit was put together, took issue when Moss Adams re-worded whether productivity matched high employee pay.

Jim Williams, a member of the Compensation Committee -- and a former Santa Monica City Manager -- repeatedly asked why the original wording of high pay equals only comparable productivity had been modified to have a different meaning.

The final wording included the caveat that its analysis of productivity had not included a deep enough dive to be conclusive.

Two other compensation committee members repeatedly asked to be allowed to continue the task. But the committee was set up as both advisory -- with no power -- and temporary.

They also asked for hiring and/or wage freezes and that the $461 million in unfunded pension liability debt be paid off by 2030.

None of the ideas gained support from the bosses -- the Audit Subcommittee, which is dominated by three council members.


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