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City Hall paying twice for same work

Original post made by Howard Javis supporter, Downtown, on Aug 14, 2010

As a resident and taxpayer, seems that City Hall is stuffed with employees with fat salaries and pensions, but then City Hall still hires "consultants" to do the same job that these employees are being paid to suppose to do. Like this $25000 contract for one woman to provide "publicity" for the multi-million $$$ Fire House Center; but the City also has a $75000 "public information officer" (who will being getting probably a $75000 pension too).

"Approval to award contract to Barbara Lewis, Attention Business Communications in the amount of $25,000 to provide ongoing publicity and marketing services for the Firehouse Arts Center" - City Hall approving this on Tuesday night.

Why should City Hall spend 2x the money for the same work ?!? Can't City Halll get work out of these public employees?

I think we should spend the money on police officers or fire fighters, not consultants and information officers to do the same job.

Comments (23)

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Posted by where's oversignt
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Sad. Isn't that appalling...didn't the city just hire our own 'publicity' person last year, with all the public employee perks and retirement? Who couldn't she earn it. This has been on the drawing board, it does seem the city is not 'overwhelmed' at the moment and could have loaned to anothe department. ...must be going to an "insider/friend".

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Bordeaux Estates
on Aug 14, 2010 at 8:05 pm

The Pleasanton school district has been doing this for years.

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Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 15, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Where is their incentive?

Notice there is always money for these types of activities, but when budgets are tight highly sensitive/emotional services are cut (i.e. police/fire/schools) because politicians know the public is more likely to pass a ballot initiative to pay for a school parcel tax than one to pay for an information consultant.

Government faces no competition, there is no incentive or pressure to become more efficient. The only way to really force change is to start voting no for every tax increase (regardless of perceived value) and force politicians to start realizing that they need to start spending more wisely.

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 16, 2010 at 8:37 am

While the schools have kids begging for money as you drop off your kids in the morning, the city is hiring $25,000 consultants. They should be ashamed!

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 16, 2010 at 8:40 am

If we passed a parcel tax, maybe we could hire several consultants.

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Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2010 at 9:13 am

And have you ever watched the city employees work? Multiple visits/trips for simple tasks and always two or three people to turn a screw or nail something a single person could do...

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Posted by Julia
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2010 at 9:25 am

All of us can complain and complain, but we need to realize, we are the problem. We continue to vote into office weak minded, self serving individuals.

The new motto for "We The People" must be "VOTE FOR NO INCUMBENTS". Let them serve their term and move them out. If by chance we get a great leader, show our appreciation and give them another term. But the moment they show that self serving attitude...VOTE THE RASCAL OUT.

Folks complaining is not going to solve the problem. We The People, the taxpayer's must take a strong stand against the government officials from Washington all the way back to our local communities.

Look at the Town of Danville, these arrogant officials want to by pass the election process and appoint their fellow city official into office all in the name of saving money but we all know it's more then that reason. All the city official are buddies and move in the same direction. This is a great way to control the masses.

All of this is very sad and even more sad if we continue to allow this to happen. People, just look around and if you can see through the trees in this corrupt forest you will realize what I am saying.

Thanks for listening, Julia from Alamo.

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Posted by Kathy
a resident of Val Vista
on Aug 16, 2010 at 9:45 am

Before slinging accusations you should check your facts. That's what the Freedom of Information Act is for. Although I have not, do you know if it is covered by a grant or any other funding source other than the general fund. Citizen's need to realize that the school and City have different budgets and each gets their funding from different sources. They are not interchangeable.

I agree that our City must review how they spend money. Every organization has had to streamline and reduce costs during these tough times and our City government should be required to do that also. However, attaching City worker's salaries does not help. 99% of the non-sworn City employees do not receive outrageous pensions. Only the sworn (Fire and Police) have the ability to receive most (90%) of their salary. No one minded when budgets were tight and the employee's agreed to have the City pay part of the employee's retirement in lieu of a raise when the PERS rates where inexpensive. This saved the community money. Now that the PERS rates are high, Cities, Counties and the State must review the current pension system as it is not sustainable.

If you want to reduce benefits call it what it is, a pay cut. I do not work for the City of Pleasanton, but do understand how we got to where we are at. Make sure you understand the budget before making suggestions on how to improve the situation or reduce costs. Asking for more public safety without pension reform for both sworn and non-sworn personnel will result in a budget which is dominated by public safety. Although safety is critical to a healthy City so are the quality of life services the City provides.

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Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 16, 2010 at 10:22 am

Taxpayer.....I make multiple trips to Lowes / Home Depot when I'm reparing something too......ha ha. Now granted, I don't do it for a living, but I do understand the need, as well as your frustration.

Regarding the "buddy system" there is not much you can do to get around that, safety guidelines pretty much require a second person (and sometimes third depending on task) to be present in case something happens.

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Posted by Retiree
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2010 at 10:43 am

Thanks, Kathy for the info about the retirement.
I worked for many years for a city which has CA PERS: Public Employees Retirement System. Statewide, it allows workers to move from one city or agency to another without losing their pension, which is good for everyone. A city can hire a manager from another agency, where he or she might not have a promotion opportunity.
I worked for less than in the private sector, partly because I had some "job security", and was earning a safe pension. (now with Arnold - workers don't know whether they'll work 40 hours or not.)
In those days return on investment of the funds helped a great deal with paying the costs, so the cities did not need to pay as much. Basically they got a free ride while it lasted. But with this economy that is no longer possible, and the money has to come from somewhere. Because the contributions were less before, there is not as much invested. Either a city must pay it's fair share, or have the employee pay more, which means the city has to pay the employee more. They may be tax advantages to having your retirement paid for by your employer, so that may be cheaper in the long run.

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Posted by Outsourcing is the Answer
a resident of Happy Valley
on Aug 16, 2010 at 5:47 pm

"Where is their incentive? Government faces no competition, there is no incentive or pressure to become more efficient."

I agree completely with this notion. That is one of the basic differences between the public and private sector, demonstrating how the city can save taxpayer dollars by outsourcing some of the services it provides, thus eliminating the highly compensated (with loaded benefits, pensions and medical for life) public employee.

Generally speaking, if elected officials would buck the public employee unions, you would see more outsourcing of services to the private sector. Without public pension reform, this may happen anyway, and sooner rather than later.

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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Aug 16, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Kathy has made excellent points.

Julia from Alamo's thinking operates under the false assumption that replacing incumbents wholesale solves problems. It creates more problems than it solves. Let's go for quality, not quantity. Take the time to actually investigate and evaluate candidates. Just voting the incumbents out smacks of an aversion towards the research needed to make well-reasoned decisions.

Pleasanton Parent brings up a good point about government facing no competition. It's a common occurrence that bureaucracy is resistant to change. The Economist has an article available online Web Link that touches upon that subject slightly. The article talks about "social innovation funds", an old idea gaining new traction (think Bush's Faith-Based Initiatives). The big reason for the creation of these new government entities/funds is because of the resistance to change from the old bureaucracy. It is easier to make a new bureaucracy than to change the old bureaucracy.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 16, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Outsourcing wil be the answer if the unions do not change their tune.

Julia, you are right in "VOTE FOR NO INCUMBENTS." Politicians have figured out they can get away with anything now. Stacey's comment that "voting them out creates more problems than it solves" is like saying "we know they lie and cheat but at least we know how much they lie and cheat." We can do better.

Kathy, just because money might come from a grant does not make it better. Those grants are taxpayer money. It is no better spending the grant money than local revenue. It is all tax money that we have paid. To the previous statement that the problem is just because of the investment return, not true. That is only part of the problem. When times were good, the politicians gave away the store. They let government workers retire earlier and they also increased the amount of retirement they make without any cost or risk to the taxpayer. They gave all the risk to the taxpayer. To make it worse, they gave them the raise in pension benefits retroactive to the day they were employed by the agency! Talk about unearned benefits! Also, our city (i.e., the taxpayer) pays 100% of the employee share of the pension contribution. So the employee pays nothing for their EXTREMELY GENEROUS PENSION. It is not just police and fire; it is all city employees. I believe it was reported here that our previous City Attorney makes about $175,000 per year in retirement now plus cost of living adjustments, plus free medical insurance for life; at the expense of the taxpayers. If you think that the city employees have not been getting raises by instead have been getting benefits, you have not been paying attention. Sevor or eight years ago, the city gave out an eight year contract to non-public safety employees, with guaranteed increases of 40% over 8 years. That was done at the same time they gave all the extra pension benefits.

Did you know that the current payment into the pension system only works if the pension fund makes 7.75% return on their investment each year. That is a pretty large guaranteed return if you want little risk in capital.

On the benefits, the unions now tell the taxpayers, "ha, ha, you loose." They got retirment benefits greatly increased and made retroactive, and then say they were nothing you can do about it now. For this reason, we need to outsource most everything, and kick the politicians out until we have representatives that stand up for the taxpayer and not for the unions.

If you are not going to vote out the incumbents just based on them being an incumbents, you should at least kick out any of the politicians that have been endorsed by any public employee union or receive money from a public employee union. The unions only "invest" in those candidates that will keep the union cats happy.

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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Aug 16, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

The great risk is the loss of experience. Private organizations and businesses always see experience as an asset and seek to retain it. If the goal is to improve the quality of a candidate's performance in office, experience should be valued during candidate evaluation. Bringing in those with relatively little experience can be harmful. Obama's inexperience shows. But some are comfortable with more of that.

The Bay Area News Group recently ran a series of reports on how the overwhelming majority of California legislators rely greatly upon lobbyists and sponsored bills, going so far as allowing lobbyists to write their talking points for deliberation. And it found that one of the biggest influencing factors for this new avenue of special interest influence in our State legislature was due to the inexperience of the electeds.

Now this isn't to say that someone with relatively little experience can't be great. It is only to point out that marching to the mantra of "VOTE FOR NO INCUMBENTS" can lead to more of the same problems. It won't bring about the change that is hoped for and may in fact exacerbate the problem it hopes to solve.

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Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Pleasanton Parent,
I understand safety concerns, but in no way think it takes two or three workers to mount a shelf or other non safety critical jobs...I would be the first to support safety..not laziness or lack of accountability on tax dollars.

I would love someone to fund an independent audit of city that would ever happen...

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Posted by Outsourcing is the Answer
a resident of Happy Valley
on Aug 17, 2010 at 12:22 am

Bottom line is our government is failing us, at the expense of the taxpayer and for the benefit of all public employees. However, recently I am seeing decisive action on the part of some county, city and special district officials to either consolidate or contract (outsource) services with neighboring agencies to save precious dollars. All this to prevent their organization from becoming the next Vallejo! Imagagine that ... a governmental agency thinking like a business just to stay in business!! Public employee unions need to wake up, or their very demise is inevitable.

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Posted by David
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 17, 2010 at 8:28 am

While the rest of us see our 401(K)s dwindle, this is what the Pleasanton public employees make .. for life, indexed to cost of living plus free medical benefits. From the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility.
BRAMELL, THOMAS $10,569.50 $126,834.00 PLEASANTON
BUCKOVIC, JOSEPH $9,595.19 $115,142.28 PLEASANTON
CARLSON, ERIC $10,771.36 $129,256.32 PLEASANTON
CHAPMAN, SEAN $9,855.65 $118,267.80 PLEASANTON
COUSINEAU, CARL $9,266.81 $111,201.72 PLEASANTON
CROLL, DOUGLAS $10,137.49 $121,649.88 PLEASANTON
EASTMAN, WILLIAM $9,966.59 $119,599.08 PLEASANTON
GARY, STEWART $13,431.30 $161,175.60 PLEASANTON
GOODWIN, JOHN $11,712.36 $140,548.32 PLEASANTON
HELMS, PAUL $8,865.64 $106,387.68 PLEASANTON
ISERSON, JERRY $11,200.31 $134,403.72 PLEASANTON
KIELY, DENNIS $8,474.15 $101,689.80 PLEASANTON
LAURENCE, MAUREEN $8,955.50 $107,466.00 PLEASANTON
LYNESS, ROBERT $10,887.35 $130,648.20 PLEASANTON
MADRID, SALLY $9,054.73 $108,656.76 PLEASANTON
MOLKENBUHR, PAUL $8,726.88 $104,722.56 PLEASANTON
NEAL, TIMOTHY $14,316.04 $171,792.48 PLEASANTON
PHELPS, KRISTEN $9,105.34 $109,264.08 PLEASANTON
RADFORD, DAVID $10,661.33 $127,935.96 PLEASANTON
ROSE, GARY $8,497.48 $101,969.76 PLEASANTON
ROSS, STEVEN $8,755.43 $105,065.16 PLEASANTON
ROSSI, SUSAN $12,759.43 $153,113.16 PLEASANTON
ROUSH, MICHAEL $13,445.05 $161,340.60 PLEASANTON
SAULSBURY, DONALD $8,576.44 $102,917.28 PLEASANTON
STJOHN, MICHAEL $9,461.25 $113,535.00 PLEASANTON
SWIFT, BRIAN $10,949.07 $131,388.84 PLEASANTON
TOLLEFSON, GARY $12,090.89 $145,090.68 PLEASANTON
WALSH, WILLIAM $8,430.23 $101,162.76 PLEASANTON
WILSON, ROBERT $12,695.70 $152,348.40 PLEASANTON
WIXOM, GREGORY $8,765.64 $105,187.68 PLEASANTON
WOLFE, JAMES $11,801.51 $141,618.12 PLEASANTON

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Posted by David
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 17, 2010 at 8:29 am

And this is what Pleasanton teachers make ...

JAMES, BILL $8,816.37 $105,796.44 PLEASANTON UNIFIED

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Posted by Larry McKinnon
a resident of Southeast Pleasanton
on Aug 17, 2010 at 8:56 am

Can we get Livermore salaries posted on the front page of the Pleasanton weekly, how about listing also what the job title is?
Everyone should know what every high paid "public employee" is making, we are making the payroll out of our payroll (those that are still employed)
Livermore, Ca.

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Posted by David
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 17, 2010 at 9:23 am

The above was just a member list of the $100K a year pension club. Search the database for other cities. Pasted below is a recent article from the Wall Street Journal:

The Pension Bell Tolls
Want $600,000 a year in retirement? Work for the government.

For an illustration of everything wrong with the nation's public pensions, look no further than the compensation in Bell, California.

Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo stepped down three weeks ago after news broke that he was making $800,000 a year to oversee the blue-collar town of 40,000. Now the Los Angeles Times reports that records show Mr. Rizzo's compensation was double that amount—some $1.5 million a year. That number included the 28 weeks of vacation and sick time Mr. Rizzo was allowed annually—at a cost of $386,000. Good work, if you can get it.

Mr. Rizzo's comp also spiraled up thanks to the city's contributions to his pension and other retirement plans. Mr. Rizzo is in line to collect at least $600,000 annually in guaranteed pension payouts upon retirement, thanks to California's generous formulas based on time served and compensation. Those payouts—which could add up to tens of millions of dollars over Mr. Rizzo's lifetime—help explain why the Golden State is currently $6.2 billion in the hole for retiree pension and benefit payments.

According to the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, a nonprofit that advocates pension reform, Mr. Rizzo is hardly alone. The foundation lists 9,111 retired California government workers receiving pensions in excess of $100,000 a year. The top earner, one Bruce Malkenhorst, receives $510,000 a year for his tenure as city administrator of Vernon, California (population, 91). Not including health benefits.

These paydays are the inevitable result of the dominance of government unions in city and state politics. While most private workers have 401(k)-type plans that rise and fall in value with economic growth, unions negotiate guaranteed payouts that stay lucrative whether or not the cities can afford them. California Attorney General Jerry Brown is investigating the Bell episode, but he'd enhance his chances to become the next Governor if he proposed more ambitious pension reform.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 17, 2010 at 9:53 am

Stacey, you state the great risk is the loss of experience. But the elected officials do not think that is important. Otherwise why would they lower the retirement age for state and city workers? Fire and Police can now retire at 50 years old. Other government employees can now retire at 55 years old. I think there is a much greater risk of loss of experience in the workers than in the politicians. It is near impossible to have a police chief or fire chief that is much older than 50.

If you look on the list that David posted on retirement salaries, it lists Stewart Gary. He was our fire chief. Retired at age 50 and now gets $161,175 per year plus cost of living increases and medical insurance for life. He was quoted in a paper at the time saying that although he loved his job, he would make more in retirement than staying employed so he essentially had to retire. He was a great fire chief but the system we have for retirement essentially forces the good experienced people out the door.

David, the $100k club is actually much larger than what you see. If you were not in public safety, as you move from city to city, each city pays for your retirement for those years of service at that city. So you could have a $75K pension from city 1, $50K pension from city 2, and so forth. In this example a person could be receiving $125K in pension but would not be on this list. The pension system makes it almost impossible to get the real pensions a person receives. Case in point, nobody can figure out how much Jerry Brown would be taking home in pensions because he worked at several agencies. Several newspapers have been trying to figure this out but the retirement system will not give them the necessary info. If the taxpayers are 100% responsible for the risk of the retirements, we should have 100% access to their records!

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Posted by Julia
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2010 at 10:22 am

Good Morning, This is Julia from Alamo. WOW...this subject brought out a lot good information. Most of the comments were well thought out and some were just BS slinging.

By the way Stacey from Amberwood...just look in the mirror and you will see the problem. Stacey, Stacey...experience is what we need??? You should read the comment from a resident from Birdland...he/she has it right.

Stacey, you are expressing what most of the folks do every voting period...pick the familiar name, the matter how corrupt he/she is...well things must change and change soon. And if you read my message and understood have seen I also said to if the official happens to be doing a good job for the people...keep him/her for another term...but when it's to cut them loose, cut them loose now.

Thanks for listening, Julia from Alamo

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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Aug 17, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Stacey is a registered user.


I don't condone picking a candidate because of name recognition no matter how corrupt (your words) they may be. That would be no better than your battle cry of: "VOTE FOR NO INCUMBENTS". If you think that is what I was advocating, then you've understood nothing.

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