OC Political

A right-of-center blog covering local, statewide, and national politics

OC City Council Members Display Courage in Ending Outsized Benefits

Posted by Walter Myers III on March 30, 2012

If you don’t know about the the stand some Orange County city council members in various cities are taking against abuse of your tax dollars, then you will be happy to read a great article on Rancho Santa Margarita City Councilman Jesse Petrilla in the OC Register, which you can find at http://www.ocregister.com/news/petrilla-346622-benefits-council.html. Councilman Petrilla is demonstrating great courage in bringing the issue of outsized City Council benefits to the forefront. Few of us mind that City Council members get a reasonable monthly stipend for their service to their respective cities. It can often be long, hard, and thankless hours of work for those truly committed, so they deserve a token of appreciation from the taxpayers whom they serve. However, many City Councils across Orange County have taken advantage of taxpayers by voting themselves benefits that are only appropriate for full-time employees, particularly health benefits.

In my own city of Tustin, City Council members receive full healthcare benefits, which is perverse in my view because such a benefit can entice people to run for the wrong reasons. Yet Rancho Santa Margarita is particularly egregious, since benefits in excess of $65,000 not used during a term served can be placed in a retirement fund to be used later. This should have us all outraged, so kudos to Petrilla and also Mayor pro tem Steve Baric  for standing against such madness that would greatly benefit them financially. The purpose of being on City Council is to serve and to give back to the community, not to benefit financially. Both Petrilla and Baric  have voluntarily opted out of receiving all benefits, and are proposing that the entire City Council vote to officially end them, following the lead of the Orange City Council. The Orange City Council voted to permanently end stipends, healthcare benefits, and retirement benefits late last year. They are to be applauded for their courage as a council, and I would extend this as well to Councilmen Petrilla and Baric. Tustin would do well to do the same, and I hear there are rumblings this may happen.

On Wednesday, the Rancho Santa Margarita voted 3-2 to postpone action on ending council benefits (not exactly unexpected), so we will continue to watch this story as it develops and report back soon.

5 Responses to “OC City Council Members Display Courage in Ending Outsized Benefits”

  1. It’s true, it’s true. Jerry Amante waited until the end of his term to decide that council members should not receive any stipend or benefit. So, he is planning on putting a measure on the ballot that will let the voters decide. Funny thing is, this fiscally conservative former mayor has not given up his stipend or benefits, which he could have done, during his current term. A couple of his cohorts have.

    I Also believe that stipends and even mileage are in order for council members as the work is hard and, often without any other form of remuneration or gratitude from the people. Reasonable stipends allow the common person, who often must give up vacation or personal days at work to attend meetings and other affairs of the city, to be able to receive some compensation to make up for it. In most cases, the compensation is appropriate and should be monitored by the voters. But, the recent effort by (mostly Republican) rich or well-to-do council members to do away completely with stipends will eliminate a huge number of qualified people who would otherwise be able to serve.

    • Perry Mason said

      Jeff:

      Your invective against Amante is misplaced. Any ordinance or local initiative to eliminate councilmember benefits and/or stipends is prospective. It would be illegal if it targeted the compensation of sitting members during their current terms.

      Amante could have introduced this ordinance at the beginning of his second term, and if it hadf passed it would not have had any legal impact on him.

      • Perry, you misunderstand. Amante has every right to defer payment of his stipend. He could have done so at any time and could do so now. But, just like John Moorlach, who continues to pay into a lucrative county pension while attacking public employee pensions, Amante continues to draw a stipend and benefits.

        Further, it is on the record that Amante originally asked for a measure that would give the citizens of Tustin the opportunity to determine appropriate compensation. What the staff came back with was a measure that would make it a yes/no question on the idea of compensation and benefits. That suits Amante as he will be out of a job soon enough.

  2. Walter Myers III said

    Thanks, Jeff. As the facts come out about these benefits, they are incredibly maddening. Finally the public is finding out how cities across California, and indeed the entire nation, are abusing taxpayers by providing these outsize benefits without most knowing about it. Taxpayers would not expect this or know about it without a few honest City Council members. And that’s not to mention the billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities in the billions across Ameria that have been promised to city employees, with Stockton and Bell in California being the most infamous examples.

    • Reasonable pensions are appropriate for employees in ’37 Act counties, which Orange is one. Contrary to popular belief, these employees, for the most part, do not receive Social Security and their 401(k) (known as a 457 in the governent) is a joke. If government ever truly goes to a 401(k) type program, I pray another law will come into effect prohibiting them from managing the funds as many entities that you have pointed out have managed to drive their funds into the ground. This is poor management, not exorbitant pensions.

      If you really want to look at abuse, look at managers, executives and elected officials who have been abusing the system for years, rewarding cronies like Tom Mauck, Carl Crowne, and in our own town, Elizabeth Binsack and the band that comprises our law team, with outrageous compensation and benefits. There is your real problem with government. Reel in these idiotic compensation packages and you will substantially trim the budget while getting a better employee who doesn’t waddle up to the trough.

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