To the Acorn: This letter is in response to the letter “City manager’s salary is too high” and the editorial “Dear City Hall: Operators are standing by.” Both pieces brought home the recurring issue of the lack of transparency in government costs and practices which has created a special class of super-paid insular government employees and elected officials and has made their service cost totally unrelated to performance to the public whom they propose to serve. There are excellent online resources to refer to on these issues of public service salaries: the Ventura County Taxpayers Association, the Ventura County Libertarian Party and, specifically, Transparent California www.transparentcalifornia.com.
According to Transparent California’s published salary information as of 2013 there are 13 Camarillo City employees who make more than $200,000 income per year and 80 employees who make between $200,000 and $100,000 per year. It is important to note that the final salary figure is actually an unloaded figure that does not truly reflect the ultimate costs that local taxpayers will pay when these employees retire. That yearly cost may well exceed their current salaries with today’s popular practice of “spiking” the public employee benefits/retirements.
If transparency is not an issue with the City of Camarillo why has it failed to provide a link to Transparent California on the city website or is it just an innocent oversight? Failing to include employees’ names on the salary figures provided to Transparent California as Ventura County has done may be simply hubris or possibly fear of disclosure, but let us not call it transparency.
The Ventura Taxpayers Association has issued a clear warning on Ventura County’s soaring employee costs as it will bankrupt the entire county and is a notice to the taxpayers of Camarillo that our employee costs are also heading the City to future insolvency. Malvina Lerma’s letter only scratches the surface of a huge hidden iceberg of the issue of public salaries and sustainability.
Certainly City Manager Bruce Feng and the new Assistant City Manager Dave Norman stand out as well paid insular employees who, if transparency were actually a notable goal, would quickly and accurately report to the public and the Acorn how much and to whom the city pays for seminars at public expense. But they did not because it has become an insider’s club paid for by local taxpayers unaware of the unsustainable employee costs, benefits and seminars that only exist in the public sector.
Elected officials have proven to be exceptionally difficult to unseat in small and large cities across California, and Camarillo is no exception. I have personally heard our council members mockingly deride the city motto that “they are the city” not its citizens and residents. The Camarillo city motto reads in Spanish as “Las personas son la ciudad,” “The people are the city.”
Although current public benefits and expense payments may be legal it is certainly a conflict of interest and ethical breach that the council members benefit from the same benefits, retirement and seminar expense payments system that the city employees enjoy. Ethically it is unsupportable in their role as overseers of city costs and begs the question of for whom and for what does the city exist–– to benefit the public at large or to benefit its own employees and elected officials? Paul Githens, LPVC Member