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City officials' pay a hot topic

Bell scandal prompts Roseville residents to inquire about local city salaries
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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After the Bell scandal broke, the calls starting coming in to the City of Roseville. Local residents wanted to know details about city employee salaries, following the revelation that the city manager of the Los Angeles suburb of Bell made an annual salary of $787,637. Subsequent news reports determined that with benefits factored in, Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo raked in roughly $1.5 million a year. Roseville resident Jack Wallace, a former local City Council candidate, said he is “absolutely interested in the pay and benefits of Roseville employees.” Wallace said it’s crucial that information on the salaries of the city manager and department heads are made available to the public — because it’s taxpayers’ dollars. “If the residents of Bell had known what was happening, it would not have happened,” Wallace said. He said when residents stay informed, city council members are more apt to remedy troubling situations as soon as they occur. He said his group, Friends of Roseville, acts as a watchdog group to ensure that what happened in Bell does not happen here. The City of Roseville has posted employee salary information and labor agreements on its website since launching the site at least 10 years ago, said city spokeswoman Megan MacPherson. Salaries are posted according to job classification. “Transparency is what it’s all about,” MacPherson said. “We want the public to know where the money is being spent and how it’s being spent.” When the contract for newly hired Roseville City Manager Ray Kerridge was set to go before the City Council in May, staff posted details about his potential compensation online so residents could review the information and weigh in on the issue during public comment at the meeting. Kerridge, who started his position in June, earns $237,300 annually, which is about $35,000 less than the previous city manager who was terminated by city council vote last fall. He also earns a deferred compensation contribution to a retirement account of 9 percent of his salary — or $21,357. Kerridge does not receive a car allowance, nor do other department directors. His total pay and benefit package is $271,878. While the local city manager’s salary may be higher than other jurisdictions in the region, including the $215,000 earned by the city manager of much-larger Sacramento, salaries for top administrators aren’t determined simply by population, MacPherson said. Kerridge oversees more than 1,262 full time employees and a $447 million budget. Roseville provides 115,000 residents with general government, police, fire, parks, water, wastewater, garbage pickup and electricity service. The big distinction, MacPherson said, is the scope of Kerridge’s responsibilities. “A huge difference is that we are a full-service city with our own electric utility,” MacPherson said. “There’s no other jurisdiction in the region that does that.” Meanwhile, as residents across the state turn their attention to pay for city employees, Bell continues to reel from residents angered over the controversy. Following the public disclosure of his salary, Rizzo quickly resigned as top administrator of Bell, a city of about 40,000 people. The assistant city manager and police chief also resigned. Further news reports revealed that several other department heads were making more than $200,000 and two made more than $400,000 a year. Additionally, Bell’s mayor and three city council members voted to cut their pay after it was discovered they earned about $100,000 a year, which is a far cry from the compensation of local elected officials. Roseville’s City Charter stipulates the mayor receives a $650 monthly stipend and city council members receive a $600 monthly stipend. California Attorney General Jerry Brown is investigating the Bell issue and subpoenaed the city’s financial records. Closer to home, resident Rebecca Nelson — who recently moved to Roseville — said she’s not familiar with the Bell controversy, nor has she ever looked into how much local city employees earn. “Of course, I care about it, especially in hard times and if there is exorbitant spending or employees being paid beyond what they should,” Nelson said. Roseville’s spokeswoman said in addition to making employee salary information easily available, the city also posts press releases, and agendas, minutes and video coverage of council meetings on its website to fulfill the city’s commitment to open government. “We really want the public to know what’s going on and to participate and be engaged,” MacPherson said. Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. ---------- 10 highest salaries of City of Roseville employees Name/Position/Salary/Benefits Ray Kerridge, City Manager, $237,300, $13,221 (plus annual deferred compensation of $21,357) Brita Bayless, City Attorney, $235,800, $17,151 (plus annual deferred compensation of $21,222) John Sprague, Assistant City Manager, $185,225, $14,771 Derrick Whitehead, Director of Environmental Utilities, $181,742, $15,182 Ken Wagner, Fire Chief, $179,373, $15,165 Mike Blair, Police Chief, $177,948, $3,322 Russ Branson, City Treasurer, $175,959, $16,658 Michelle Bertolino, Electric Utility Director, $171,712, $16,174 Paul Richardson, Planning Director, $171,003, $16,044 Robert Schmitt, Assistant City Attorney, $166,317, $15,706 Source: Megan MacPherson, City of Roseville ----------