More than half of Morro Bay’s best-paid city employees in 2010 worked in public safety, but the city’s seven highest earners were top administrators.
A public records analysis by The Tribune of Morro Bay’s 50 top-paid employees showed that the earnings of most of the city’s highest-earning public safety employees were bolstered by overtime payments, some in excess of $10,000. Also in 2010, three department heads left their positions early in the year but still took home sizeable salaries.
The city’s top earner was City Manager Andrea Lueker, who earned $163,426. City Attorney Rob Schultz was second, earning $152,488.
Department heads all took home six-digit salaries for the year. These included Fire Chief Mike Pond, Administrative Services Director Susan Slayton, Public Services Director Rob Livick, Police Chief Tim Olivas, Recreation and Parks Director Joe Woods and retired Harbor Director Rick Algert.
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In 2010, Morro Bay had the unusual circumstance of losing three top administrators — two to retirement and one to resignation. This resulted in two people being paid a substantial amount of money for the same job in the same calendar year.
In April, John DeRohan retired as police chief and was replaced by Tim Olivas. DeRohan was paid $89,130 for the year while Olivas earned $119,465.
DeRohan earned almost as much as Olivas even though he worked a much smaller portion of the year for two reasons, said Slayton, who is the city’s chief financial officer. DeRohan’s salary was at the top of the pay bracket for that position while Olivas’s was at the bottom, and the retiring chief cashed out on nearly 400 hours of unused vacation time.
Similarly, Bruce Ambo resigned in April as public services director and was replaced by Rob Livick. Bolstered by three months of severance pay, Ambo made $79,412 in 2010, about half what he made the year before.
Algert retired in June, but earned $102,412 compared with the $144,421 he earned in 2009. Algert was also able to cash out on nearly 400 hours of vacation time, Slayton said.
Morro Bay has 101 employees, including the five members of the City Council, Slayton said. All but two of these are full-time employees.
While many municipalities have been hurt by the downturn in the economy, Morro Bay has been particularly hard hit with losses of revenue from the struggling commercial fishing industry and the antiquated Morro Bay power plant.
The city has used its department head resignations as an opportunity to cut costs, Schultz said. The position of harbor director was not filled when Algert left.
Instead, his duties were reallocated to others in the Harbor Department, primarily Operations Manager Eric Endersby. Similarly, the positions of public services director and city engineer were merged when Ambo resigned, Schultz said.
Like many other cities in San Luis Obispo County, most of Morro Bay’s best-paid employees work in public safety. Fourteen were with the Police Department, 11 were with the Fire Department and two were dispatchers.
Many benefited from hefty overtime payments. The overtime leader was a fire engineer who earned $20,714 in overtime. Six others — five firefighters and a police sergeant — earned more than $10,000 in overtime apiece.
Most of this overtime came when the city was asked by other agencies to provide mutual aid, Slayton said. These situations can create overtime if firefighters work past their normal shifts or if replacements have to be brought in to cover for those on mutual aid.
Overtime is not the only way public safety employees can augment their paychecks. Most get extra pay when they gain certifications and qualifications.
For example, firefighters are paid more if they are qualified paramedics, Slayton said. These extra payments ranged from $1,439 to $5,400 per year. Police and firefighters can also get a uniform stipend of up to $900 a year.
Six of the city’s top administrators received a car allowance. Lueker and Slayton received the most, at $4,200 for the year. The police and fire chiefs have use of a city car, as does Schultz.