Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

The gifts just keep on rolling in, and we have the greedheads of Bell to thank for it. This might have been a costly tragedy for the people of that afflicted town, and it certainly isn't helping government officials all over California to sleep any better. But for a blogger? It's like Santa Claus showed up and brought me everything I ever wanted. And then some things I didn't even know existed.

And this week has been no different. First there was this little item, courtesy of KABC TV News:

State orders city pay scales be made public - More fallout from the Bell salary scandal: The state is now ordering that pay scales be made public in all cities and counties ... Tuesday California State Controller John Chiang ordered all cities and counties in the state to provide a report of employee and elected official salaries. Chiang said the absence of transparency is a breeding ground for waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

Now that sounded pretty good to me. The secrecy surrounding the affairs of local governments in California has been vexing for many, and thanks to Bell doors that had been sealed shut for years are suddenly being ripped open. With all now being given the opportunity to take a peek at the proverbial man behind the curtain.

The City of Sierra Madre, subject to the edicts of State Controller John Chiang as well, posted just that kind information. As required. But the City also included, along with those interesting numbers, the following rather puzzling paragraph:

Elected official and management staff salaries are public information and Sierra Madre has always responded promptly to inquiries. However, in light of the recent increase in inquiries, we've made the information easy to read on our website or to print and read as a PDF.

Why City Hall couldn't just admit that they posted this information because the state told them to is beyond me. I mean, nobody willingly posts their salaries on a public site, PDF or no. It certainly wasn't done in the past. So why make such a pointless and silly claim? Especially when you have to know it will be called out here?

Anyway, here's how those salaries break down:

City Manager ........................................................ $142,992
Administrative Services Director ........................... $90,648
Development Services Director .............................. $90,648
Personnel and Community Services Director ......... $84,144
Fire Chief (Volunteer)/Asst. Chief ......................... $80,064
Police Chief ........................................................... $102,132
Public Works Director ........................................... $95,244
Library Director .................................................... $95,244

All of which rolls in at a cool $787,926 bucks. To which I believe you'll need to add at least another $80,000 because we have more than one salaried Fire Department boss. Additionally, there are benefits. These include health, dental, vision and life insurance. There are also pension considerations, mileage, cell phone reimbursement, stuff like that. The Chiefs all get City provided vehicles, as does the Public Works Director. So if you figure that all averages in at around $25,000 per employee, that comes to an additional $200,000. Bringing the total cost of just the upper management staff alone to almost $1,100,000. Or so.

Of course, this list does not account for everyone who works at City Hall, and we are hoping that the salaries and titles of the rest of the folks employed there will also be made available, and fairly soon. Sierra Madre is obliged to achieve compliance with Sacramento's recent edicts on these matters. I'd hate to see us incurring any fines like we did back in the days when state mandated audits weren't getting done on time.

Our Man In La Habra Heights

The video I posted yesterday regarding citizen anger in Bell was e-mailed to me by the guy who made it, George Edwardz. George is an Executive Vice President at one of the big television satellite transmission corporations. They do a lot of work for the major TV networks, particularly on the news end. Basically this outfit owns a bunch of those large television satellite dish trucks you can see hauling butt down California's glorious freeways in order to get to the next big Paris Hilton or Octomom press events in time. And we're all very grateful that they do.

But one of the cool percs of his gig is that George also gets to make sure local government gets the kind of coverage it hates. Which, since they basically prefer to work in the dark like mushrooms or anacondas, is any kind of coverage whatsoever. Which is why that Bell video I posted yesterday got made. After which it was beamed out to television stations all over America, Tattler references and all.

The guy has got one cool job. And when the time is right we really do need to get him and his trucks to stop by The Palace. Our City Council meetings can also get pretty interesting, and some of the issues that are developing here are noteworthy. Citizens fighting to save their town from the BIA's wrecking ball is a damn good story. Especially when you factor in the complicity of a faithless city administration.

George's passion is keeping his local city government honest and working for the people. That city being La Habra Heights. And would you believe we all have a friend in common? We're talking a single solitary degree of separation here. Check out this video of George Edwardz at Public Comment (click here) and see if you don't recognize who it is I'm talking about. It is quite an exchange of viewpoints.

You know something else? Would you believe this guy is also a blogger? He calls it The Avocado Express, and it covers the shenanigans going on in La Habra Heights. I've added it to the "Sites of Interest" roll. It is now recommended reading for all Tattlers. After all, Sierra Madre is hardly the only city afflicted with government that does not always work for the people paying those generous salaries.

One more thing

The Tattler received another video last night (click here). This one coming from an entirely different source. I'm posting it here for all to check out.

Tell me friends, does it remind you of anyone in particular?

65 comments:

  1. Looks like Clint Webb had the same consultant that Joe did this past election.

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  2. Clint and Joe do seem to have something in common. Can't put my finger on it. A total lack of authenticity, maybe?

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  3. George Edwardz!

    You're the king! THE KING!!!!!!!!!!

    There is one major difference between Clint and Joe Mosca. Clint is an honest enough guy to tell everyone he is an a-hole.
    Joe just lies about being an a-hole.

    Thanks for the Tattler, Crawford.
    It's men like you and George who will help save us all from these crooks, narcissists and a-holes.

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  4. Not sure Joe will ever be quite as open about that stuff as Clint. Outside of that? Twinsies.

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  5. Sir Eric,

    Our people make much more that that when you consider all the days off. That is for a Police Sargeant, city staff is similar in days off.
    Annual paid leave of 88 vacation hours (for first four years), 12 paid holidays, and 96 hours of sick leave.
    Private industry do not offer this . PUKE

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  6. The idea of shared sacrifice doesn't seem to be coming into play here. The economy is brutal, yet all we hear from city hall is that they need more money to "maintain services." Which to me sounds like they need to make up for the loss in property taxes, fees and UUT type stuff so they can keep their jobs. The cart is now before the horse.

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  7. Tattlers!
    Check out the Avocado Express, George's website.
    It's great!

    Send George an email.

    John Crawford and George Edwardz, you are an inspiration to us all.

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  8. 95K to run our library + benefits?

    you've got to be kidding

    our library is nice but still, it's a tiny itsy bitsy spider branch - that rate of pay is way out of line for the actual duties, size of the branch and I wonder what comparable salaries are for cities of 10,000 people with 1 branch?

    if we had multiple branches i could see the rate of pay but now knowing this, how do i apply?

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  9. Scarlett T.

    Please contact Hugo. We need to connect some dots here.

    Checked out these videos! Awesome stuff. Tattlers, please call your friends and have them watch this.

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  10. And, 8:52 am, the Librarian has a paid staff! Nice to be under the protective wing of Councilmember John Buchanan and the Friends of the Library! Other municipalities are cutting back, furloughing, and tightening the belt - but not Sierra Madre!

    "Let them eat cake," said the City Council.

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  11. Clint is great satire. Joe is pathetic reality.

    Joe and Co really believes what they say.

    Go Monty Python!!! Thank God for the British!

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  12. Mosca would throw a hissy if a camera that big, was pointed at himAugust 5, 2010 at 10:46 AM

    Smoking, vid, site design, the potential for dot connecting. I spent a lot of time on Mr. Georges, you tube site. Good stuff, love the big camera, I think we ought to keep him. Sir Eric, and perhaps a Tattler knighthood for Sir George of the La Habra Heights. Jousting is exhausting and our Sir Eric could use the company at the round table. The corruption is rife, the politicians and issues are many. There is intrigue and skullduggery in many city palaces.

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  13. Look at it this way, if the city council drives us into bankruptcy, they can present the big solution they have for all problens afflicting cities these days - development! "It will raise lots of tax revenue" they will say. "It will bring in lots of business" they will say. But what we'll end up with are empty buildings, no taxes to back up all the new spending, and a broke city. That is really all they have.

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  14. We need to meet with Edwardz and form a SGV Council against Unethical CC. Thank you for showing this. A man who takes his city seriously and will not back down!

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  15. Is that Inman head of Public Works?? Mr Edwards has a Moseley as a City Clerk in La Habra Heights, and that Ms Levin sure has two sides of her, one side for La Habra hgts and one side for Sierra Madre, did you notice?

    What should be required to be disclosed is the relationship of political families, like Doyle in Sierra Madre and Dorn Platz and up in Oregon another Dorn Platz project with a Doyle as a Mayor.

    Any one of us could design a form to qualify a politician, I would have them disclose how many other relatives they have seated in positions on city councils, legislature, congress, and if they were related to any one in office currently they be disqualified as a candidate.

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  16. Quick question....hope it is related. Has anyone submitted a public records request to the City?

    It has been my experience that your ability to access records will provide the most "enlightening" information on how things are being run.

    I took a quick look at the city website and was shocked to see the City is requiring a .35 per page fee for copies? Furthermore, they are indicating this fee is based on a resolution, not the actual cost of duplication?....which violates the law.

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  17. Dressing up the baby and the placement of the dog in the vid. Hmmmmmmmm? Who does that remind me of? Even looks like him. Hysterical.

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  18. This is a city that also charges $75 to reserve a picnic table. Does anybody have a fees list? That might make for some interesting living. Maybe we could then change the name of the place to The Hotel Sierra Madre. Leave your credit card at the front desk.

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  19. 11:16 am, Would you be so outraged if the fees charged for a picnic table were paid by a multifamily Arcadia birthday wing ding? Or if a wedding party from Duarte was renting Hart House on a Sunday afternoon? Of course, as we found out, since Sierra Madre has accepted Federal dollars for its projects, it can't exempt Sierra Madre residents from the fees. Administrative, maintenance, and clean up is the same regardless of who is renting. It's a complicated thing this charging of fees.

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  20. Sir Eric, thanks for the blue!
    Much easier on these old eyes.

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  21. Sierra Madreans for Sane Financial PracticesAugust 5, 2010 at 1:54 PM

    WHERE ARE THE AMOUNTS SIERRA MADRE HAS PAID FOR CONSULTANTS IN THE LAST DECADE?
    C'mon, any reasonable assessment of how much our staff costs us, how much we pay our employees, has to include the money that councils and staff have spent to outsource staff's work.

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  22. Did the 5th of July Committee get fees waived for the beer gardens and "water park"? Just asking if Matt Bosse and his hand picked volunteers play by the same rules...

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  23. One way we could reduce the amount of money paid for events is to hire security guards instead of our local cops. The idea that we need armed guards for the Wistaria Festival of Dickens Village is a little crazy. And why is it we have to chip in for Chamber of Commerce costs? What possible good does that do anyone?

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  24. Just saw the email expose vid. Beautiful work George! We value people like you in our town!
    And everyone notice how those public commentators have to mind the seconds they're allowed to speak too?
    Looks like city officials all over the place don't want to give equal time to their constituents.

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  25. 2:06, you misunderstand. You are just a lowly citizen and do not deserve equal time with your exalted council. Once you elect a council member, you are signaling complete submission. At least that's they way four of the sitting council members feel about themselves. They don't want to govern; they want to rule. And it sounds like some of the sitting members of the La Habra Heights council have caught that arrogance too.

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  26. Tattler, you are right that a whole lot more people work for the city than are on that skimpy list. That list is just top administration. And where are all their assistants? The city has what, 65 or 70, or is it 100 now, employees?
    No way is that money paid out total accurate.

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  27. Jon Stewart started a new section last night called "I Give Up"

    We need an accountant to figure out how much our city staff really costs us, including salary/benefits/retirement/consultancy use.

    It's a lot more than you might think.

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  28. worked on the recallAugust 5, 2010 at 2:28 PM

    The writer of the Clint Webb bit must have known Mosca really well!

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  29. That is so so right, 2:20. Here they print a disclaimer about how "open" they've always been...and then only gave us 1/4 of the information they were supposed to...How rusty are the pipes going into cityhall's water coolers again?

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  30. Have you tried looking it up on the city website, dearie?August 5, 2010 at 2:32 PM

    We are very honest and upfront here, and if it was any of your business you'd know that.

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  31. memory lane sprintAugust 5, 2010 at 2:40 PM

    Here's the sad news for the people in Sierra Madre who want financial accountability.
    Apparently, our city council at one time hired a thief to be city manager.Said thief stole from us and made all kinds of deals with the less honorable citizens among us, and nobody figured it out - most notably derelict, the worst council ever - Stokly, Buchanan, Jofe and Torres, aka the hillside developers council.
    Said thief destroyed all the records and sued or maybe still is suing the city.
    The upshot is that there is no way for us to find out what has happened with our money.
    A forensic auditor would be stuck with no records.
    Would be nice to have an independent report that says that though. Hard to trust Buchanan's take on it.
    Add to this the fact that for many years, all records were mushed around, with administrative costs being inserted here, there and everywhere.
    That's what the half a million dollar new accounting software is supposed to clear up.

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  32. 2:32, so are you saying that you'll be open if a resident finds out where to look?
    Not exactly the formula for transparency.

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  33. Dearie, where exactly on the city web site can I find the number of employees and their pay, benefits and retirement?
    Have you got something to suggest because the city site has a clumsy search engine.

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  34. 2:28, it's not 1/4 of the information - it's more like 1/10.

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  35. You can't blame the city if you ignore the lessons to be learnedAugust 5, 2010 at 2:56 PM

    Consultants are paid with city issued warrants. All transactions over $25K are brought to Council for approval. Since 2007 all transactions are approved in advance as budgeted items. All of the documents are available to the public at .35 cents a page if they know what to ask for. Or, in the library archives at .10 cents a copy if one is inclined to spend some time investigating.

    Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Pay more attention at City Council Meetings. Appear in person; ask questions. Organize study groups. Be informed. Demanding information like you would service at a restaurant is a bit disingenuous.

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  36. Shouldn't consultants be considered a form of employee compensation? Just because staff can't do it doesn't mean it isn't city business.

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  37. I noticed that they posted the asst Fire Chief's salary at $80,000 but Heydorff the Fire Cheif started at $90,000 four years ago I'm sure he hasn't taken a pay cut. All that for a volunteer fire dept ot run.....

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  38. Inquiring Minds Wanna NoAugust 5, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    When are we going to start getting data from that crazy expensive software the city bought? Or would that kind of transparency now fall short of the new standards for civility?

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  39. One of the Bell protesters featured in Edwardz' great report said that she worked and was raising her family, and trusting that the people in the city government were doing their jobs. Many citizens feel like that. We are not lying around all day surfing the internet and gathering information.
    It turns into a full time job to gather the information that keeps the city "open"
    We should not have to do their jobs as well as our own.

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  40. 3:21, could you run that by me again? Cuz I don't think I understand the word "volunteer" ?

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  41. Volunteers are now prized mostly for their ability to bobble. Independent thought is not what is being asked for.

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  42. Not so 3:33!!!
    At least not at the most happening new volunteer gig in town right now.
    The general plan will be written by the people of Sierra Madre who show up to put their words in to it.
    Volunteerism is a way for Power to the People to come true!

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  43. I took away a slightly different message from Mr. Edwardz's news video on Bell. The people there are also to blame. If they had been doing their civic duty that stuff wouldnt have happened. A lack of citizen participation is just as bad as a lack of honest news coverage. When both are absent, then there is nothing to keep these people from feathering their nests.

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  44. Freedom is not free.
    Bell has done us all a favor.
    Maybe more residents of Sierra Madre will come to the public meetings.
    Maybe more than one of Joe's or John's supporters will come, to watch the people they put into a decision making position.
    Has even one of Walsh's or Moran's showed up?
    Besides the big revenge party night for the self-righteous to come and howl.

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  45. What would YOU like to see coming out of City Hall in the way of information? Send your ideas to the Tattler at sierramadretattler@gmail.com and we'll compile the results. THEN we'll file a Public Records Request and distribute the results in some way. It might be as simple as asking Tattlers to send a self addressed envelope or an investment in some $$$ by contributing to the copying costs. We have VOLUNTEERS who are willing to do research and respond to requests.

    What do YOU think?

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  46. Best quote from Vipperman:

    "I would like to not take public comments if possible"

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  47. Bobblehead supporters seem very entitled to me. I think they view the city council as employees rather than leaders. Which is why they don't show up at meetings. It's not their responsibility.

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  48. Check back a few articles for a Dr. S post - let's see the money for the assistants & assistants to assistants.....

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  49. Every town needs a real blog. With the possible exception of the LA Times, all the papers are in the pockets of the good old boys.

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  50. Every town needs men like John Crawford and George Edwardz who donate so much of their time and intelligence to helping their neighbors.

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  51. We had three of the most dedicated to honesty and the people councilmember and candidates and the uninformed voters, those who bothered to vote, didn't even elect them to join MacGillivray.
    That's very sad for Sierra Madre. Because now you are run by crooks, just like the Bell gang and the La Habra gang.
    Congratulations, Sierra Madre....you fell asleep and the bad guys took back control of your city.

    You can't be "friends" with Bart Doyle, John Buchanan or Joe Mosca and pretend to fight for your city, as these men are all dire enemies of Sierra Madre.
    Time to take off the gloves, and fight.

    Thankfully, Crawford and Edwardz have "manned" up and are fighting for us. Let's either help them or get the hell out of their way.

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  52. I don't get it, the city is apparently is under finacial constraint, however we have allowed our police chief to double HER department, let alone almost double the finacial budget to keep OUR PD up and running. I recently spoke to one of our finest and I was told the department is extremely top heavy. Where is all this money coming from to pay for our police department.

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  53. The jerks are spedning Sierra Madre into a financial hole. Then they;ll tell us the way to save the city is to allow development in. Just like they did before measure v. They are very predictable like that.

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  54. I think it's been explained before on the Tattler. . . some of the new police are temporary to train our regular guys, and bring them up to the standards we should expect from our police department. Chief Diez is doing a good job in spite of not having top flight employees. They will get there in time.

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  55. GREAT IDEA 4:11 to get a public records request
    en masse.

    It will be so long and detailed that in and of itself will have many people resigning.

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  56. good business senseAugust 5, 2010 at 6:41 PM

    When you consider the arrogance of the downtown specific plan, the entire reworking of our downtown that it was after, it's very revealing about what the pro-development side is willing to do. And I don't care how many times they profess love for "the village" that was a plan to destroy it. Plus to this date the backers still on the council, Buchanan and Mosca, have never apologized for that disastrous waste of time and money, or admitted what a colossal mistake it was.

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  57. Let me see if I have this right, 6:13. Diaz hired a bunch of lowrent dudes to serve on our Police Department, and because they couldn't rise to even the minimal standards she set, we now have to pay even more money to hire more people to straighten out those other guys.

    I don't know how it is where you come from, but I've always understood that is something called throwing good money after bad.

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  58. John Crawford!

    Thank you as always for excellent news reports.

    We really LOVE your new format and larger print!

    It's a good improvement!

    Others who appreciate this new format, please give Crawford the thumbs up.

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  59. 6:53, seemingly some of the Tattler posters are la-la-la-la-ing themselves when it comes to the police dept.
    Diaz inherited a mess.

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  60. Sorry 7:02. I thought the old format was clearer and more readable.

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  61. Whether Diaz inherited a mess or not is irrelevant. We are way over policed in this town. We could lose half of them and nobody would know the difference.

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  62. It's nice that they posted the "current salary" listing. However, the little known secret among government employees is all the "perks" that come along with the job, including overtime, buying back unused sick time, bonuses for high level administrators, and retirement plan contributions above the basic package. If the City really wanted to be transparent, they would publish the 2009 actual payments as well. I will guarantee you that the payments will be much, much more.

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  63. How come nobody's asking for an independent audit of the entire financial report for the city? All the comments I see here are for bits & pieces. Ask for the whole ball of wax, the salaries, the bennies and the pensions. Just like Bell.

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  64. I think I understand now. What ever Diaz demands, Diaz shall receive. When is enough, enough. I guess Sierra Madre is loaded with money.

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  65. Killer McCain, the Baby StraferAugust 6, 2010 at 12:12 PM

    Hah! Pikers, Temple City has a Parks and Recs Empress pulling down 120K plus bennies. Shoulda heard her squawk when she was asked to work five day weeks instead of a slow four.

    Thanks God she is there guarding those volley ball inflater needles - those things are GOLD!

    Please sign the clipboard (in blood).

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