Mashburn Wants No Benefits

Today’s letter to the editor from Candidate Keith Mashburn:

In light of the situation in the city of Bell, the Acorn recently identified the salary of our council members at about $14,000 annually. As it turns out, this is not the total compensation the taxpayers provide to our council members.

In addition to the salary, a council member receives an additional $400 per month car allowance. What most people are not aware of is that council members also receive medical benefits as well as retirement benefits and other forms of benefits.

For them to be compensated with benefits from a part-time public service position that are normally reserved for full-time employment is excessive. A council member’s total compensation reaches about $53,000 per year.

I currently pay $1,400 per month for my medical insurance. I am not running for City Council so the taxpayer can pay my medical insurance and provide me a second retirement for part-time work.

If elected, I will not accept these benefits and will move for their elimination. And under all circumstances, whenever the question is asked about pay, the total compensation package will be reported.

I am running for council because I want to give back, not receive. Every citizen should rest in the fact that they get quality representation for the lowest cost possible; unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be happening on any level of government today.

The taxpayers of Simi Valley deserve to know exactly how much they are paying their elected officials. After all, they are paying the bills.
Keith Mashburn
Simi Valley

Council Member Glen Becerra indicated in our live discussion on Tuesday night that he didn’t join the City Council for the pay. I believe him. I don’t think any of the candidates I’ve spoken to have ever led me to believe that. Benefits or total compensation aside, I don’t believe the pay can be a motivator. The hours, commitment, exposure to public scrutiny, etc., cannot be easier to swallow by taking home $14K a year, even if the benefits that come with it are juicy. You either have a passion for the community, or you don’t. No one is doing it for the pay.

Regarding transparency of figures, I don’t believe these numbers were as transparent as we’re supposed to believe. It’s on the website now, but it wasn’t before the Bell scandal. Transparent now, yes! Transparent last year, no way. The information was available to anyone who asked, but to the casual website browser, you weren’t going to find the details. If you wanted it, you could get it, but it was not a “transparency of government” situation in the true sense of the phrase.

Regarding the total compensation figure of approximately $53K annually, I’ve argued whether or not the figure is fair. I think the figure is a fair representation of the work we expect from a City Council Member of a city like Simi Valley. Note: I have to claim ignorance regarding the technique of deferring health benefits to later in life — I do not know if that’s a practice that any Council Members engage in. To me, it comes off like a way to cheat the system, but perhaps I need to be better educated on the topic.

Council Members have been criticized for not knowing the $53K figure. There’s a total bottom-line cost for every employee of every company or organization. In most cases, the employee doesn’t have a break down of those figures. Over 10 years ago, I worked for a website development company as a programmer. I was paid $73K per year. I received benefits, a 401K, paid time off, and participated in a stock purchase program. About a year after leaving that company, my former boss shared with me that my actual cost was about $97K annually, including not only my gross pay, but the additional costs for my benefits and 401K matching. I was shocked. I always considered myself someone who made $73K on paper, but took home barely 60% of that. The $97K figure never factored into my thoughts. When I ask others what they think they cost their employer, most people simply rattle off their gross pay like I did.

I bring this up to demonstrate just how complicated it is for me to wrap my head around this topic to determine what’s right or wrong. I applaud Keith Mashburn for considering the taxpayers. But I’ve said it before, I wouldn’t object if he changed his mind on this position. If the obligations and commitment to being a City Council member are what I’ve been led to believe, as a taxpayer it would not bother me knowing they were compensated beyond their $14K salary.

More Council Meeting Highlights

One of the first things we saw in the City Council Meeting on Monday night was the presentation by the Farmers Insurance representative regarding their departure from Simi Valley. He read the letter aloud that was addressed to City Council a few days ago and then answered direct questions. Council Member Glen Becerra expressed his concerns:

Eric David Halub, former candidate for Simi Valley Mayor, presented a series of thoughts seemingly strung together on the fly. Among those thoughts was the notion that Council Salary/Benefits have been kept secret from the commuity. Council Member Sojka and candidate for Mayor responded during Council comments:

Opinion: Council Compensation is Fair

Had it not been for the City of Bell, I do not believe that City Council compensation would have been a topic of discussion in this election. But it happened, and now we want to see the detailed figures.

I’ll go ahead and say it: I do not believe the compensation package offered to our City Council Members is too much. I believe it represents a fairly balanced compensation package for the size of our city and revenue generating capacity. The figure of approximately $53K+ per year was first made public by the Simi Valley Police Officers Association when they chose to publish the figure in an ad in the Simi Valley Acorn, so these figures aren’t a surprise to me now. I think there are a number of reasons why an organized entity would want to provide appealing compensation packages to those who represent key roles, all of which are subjective and arguable by anyone. Nevertheless, considering our city’s size and bottom line, I do not believe the compensation offered is out of line.

I respect and appreciate the challenging candidates for City Council who are openly opting out of receiving additional benefits on top of the base salary of approximately $14K per year. However, I would not hold it against any of them if they chose to change their minds on that position.

Along the same lines, I also believe the published salary for our City Manager represents fair compensation. I equate the job of the City Manager to that of a CEO of a corporation. A CEO of a small corporation earning just over $1.2 million annually will earn less than a CEO of a public corporation earning billions of dollars year over year. Again, based on the size and revenue generation of our city, I believe the City Manager’s salary is fair. Of course, this is a view point I highly expect will be argued by some.

Regarding City Council Members, if these are the people I’m voting for, I want them to be fairly compensated for what they do. So long as the compensation package is a fair representation of the City’s ability to generate revenue and the actual job itself, then it’s really not a concern for me. In the case of the City of Bell, the compensation did not match the city or the job at all. I completely anticipate that a number of readers will disagree with me, but after a few days of consideration, this was the conclusion I have come to.

To put it into perspective, click here to see the Los Angeles Salary Database. Those are some impressive salaries, all of which we can debate. But the bottom line is the city can support those salaries and they keep them where they are to support employee retention and to be competitive.

On another note, I’m quitting my job immediately and going right in to Los Angeles City Government!

Keith Mashburn on Council Compensation

KEITH MASHBURN SUBMITTED THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT REGARDING COMPENSATION FOR MEMBERS OF CITY COUNCIL.

In light of the situation in the City of Bell, the Acorn recently identified the salary of our council members at about $14,000 annually.  As it turns out this is not the total compensation the taxpayers provide to our Council members.

In addition to the salary,  a council member receives an additional $400 per month car allowance.  What most people are not aware of, is that council members also receive medical benefits as well as retirement benefits and other forms of benefits.  For them to be compensated with benefits from a part time PUBLIC SERVICE position, that is normally reserved for full time employment, is excessive.  A council members total compensation reaches about $53,000 per year.

I currently pay $1400 per month for my medical insurance.  I am not running for city council so the taxpayer can pay my medical insurance and provide me a second retirement for PART TIME work.  If elected, I will not accept these benefits and will move for their elimination.  And, under all circumstances, whenever the question is asked about pay, the total compensation package will be reported.

I am running for council because I want to give back, not receive….every citizen should rest in the fact that they get quality representation for the lowest cost possible; unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be happening on any level of government today.

The taxpayers of Simi Valley deserve to know exactly how much they are paying their elected officials.  After all, they are paying the bills.

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UPDATE: This information has been publicly available on the Police Officers Association website for quite a while. You can see this information by clicking here. It’s also important to note that the Simi Valley POA has run paid advertisements in the Acorn publishing this data.

CITY HALL DISCLOSURE: In the wake of the City of Bell Scandal, the city has acknowledged the importance of detailing this data. The complete details of City Council compensation and all benefits were disclosed in the most recent City Council meeting. To see the webcast, click here and look at the meeting dated August 2, 2010.