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By Roz Rogoff

Herb Moniz answers questions

Uploaded: Dec 8, 2010

Contra Costa Times Columnist Dan Borenstein wrote a couple of columns on San Ramon City Manager Herb Moniz and his high salary and potentially high pension. In his November 6, 2010 column Borenstein estimated the value of Moniz's pension at "about $261,000 a year."

Borenstein also questioned why Mayor Abram Wilson didn't know Moniz was getting a city pension. "Stunningly, Wilson also seemed to mistakenly think that Moniz does not receive a city-funded pension. Twice during the campaign, the mayor said Moniz has his own retirement plan that he pays for out of his salary."

So I asked Herb Moniz if he is still on the CalPERS pension plan or if he has his own, self-financed pension plan. His answer to both questions is "yes." Moniz invests in a 457 Retirement Plan which is a government employee version of a 401K. So Mayor Wilson was correct that Moniz has his own self-funded retirement plan.

The question about his pension is a little more complicated. Moniz retired after being fired in 2002 and started collecting his pension at that time. He also cashed out his pension after leaving the Mission Oaks Recreation and Parks District, where he worked for almost ten years at the start of his career. According to Moniz it would take an actuarial accounting to determine what his retirement amount would be now. Borenstein acknowledged that "Moniz disputes my calculations, but when asked for specifics or documentation, he declined."

I asked Moniz about the high salaries paid to city staff. Moniz explained that our staff does not have the usual 5% salary steps or Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA). San Ramon is on a pay for performance plan, which goes from zero to 7 percent. An employee whose performance is just OK would get no increase. An employee whose performance is exceptional could get up to a 7% increase.

Moniz said he's received 7% a year since he returned to work in 2004. However, there has been a wage and hiring freeze on City employees for the last two years. So nobody has gotten an increase and the city is operating with fewer employees. Most of San Ramon's employees are in management because most of the labor is contracted out.

The city used to contract out the police department with the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office, but the cost per officer increased to more than it would cost the City to run it, so we switched over to our own Police Department.

I asked Moniz if he has considered contracting our police services to Danville and Alamo. He said he has made them an offer but they have not shown any interest even though it would cost them less than they pay the County.

Moniz said that San Ramon is a municipal services corporation. We do not sell products but provide services to residents. The quality of San Ramon's services is very high. For example the Senior Center doesn't charge for most of the services it provides to seniors, but costs must be covered from revenues collected by the city. San Ramon's income comes from sales taxes and property taxes. That's one reason why planning for future growth is important to maintaining quality services.

I asked Moniz about why it was necessary to move the Urban Growth Boundary to Camino Tassajara. I said that Alamo Creek is still in the County and not incorporated into Danville, so why would we need to take over Tassajara Valley. He said it really was about control and not development. He's sure that New Farm will be approved by the County and he didn't want to waste money on law suits to get input into the plans the way we did with Dougherty Valley.

Moniz says the city is "not anti anyone," but he believes that you can't stop population growth because people have to live somewhere. When I asked him about the hostility towards staff showing up in the blogs now, he said, "I don't know why they don't trust us. For the most part we have done a good job. What are the negatives, city staff is paid too much?"