The outrage over the grossly inflated salary earned by Bell’s former city manager Robert Rizzo — who made nearly $1.5 million per year in salary and benefits — has understandably led to demands for more transparency when it comes to disclosing salaries and benefits for top public officials.
For the record, we’ve consistently found local cities to be cooperative when we’ve sought that information over the years. That said, we wholeheartedly agree that data on salary and benefits of public officials should be as accessible — and understandable — as possible.
The state Legislature is discussing ways to make public disclosure of salaries mandatory, but why wait?
If they aren’t already doing so, we urge local cities and other public agencies to post salary and benefit data for their management teams on their websites now. That way, it will be available to the general public at any time.
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These are, after all, salaries paid by the taxpayers, and they have every right to know what public officials are earning.
To be clear, we don’t mean to imply that local officials have anything to hide.
As reported in Sunday’s Tribune, the seven city managers in San Luis Obispo County earn an average of $218,000 per year, which includes salary and benefits. The range is $164,302 for Grover Beach’s Bob Perrault, to $311,420 for San Luis Obispo’s Katie Lichtig.
Not only do local city managers earn far less than Rizzo, a few have repeatedly deferred pay raises as their cities struggle to recover from the recession.
Perrault, for example, has declined an additional $7,500 per year in deferred compensation, which he is entitled to under his contract. And like most other city employees, Perrault also has taken a 5 percent pay cut this year, to help balance the budget.
To be sure, the salaries of city managers are still generous when you consider that wages in San Luis Obispo County are lower than in many other areas of the state.
But the fact that Perrault and other local officials — including, for example, the five county supervisors — would voluntarily forgo raises during this time is commendable.
That makes the behavior of officials such as Bell’s Robert Rizzo all the more despicable in comparison.