Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hell's Bells

All over the teevee news and the internets, folks are up in arms about the apparent overpricing of the local administrators and Councilmembers by themselves.  Crooks, corrupt etc.

My take, coming from local government, looks a little askew and wonders:  where were the voters, the local news media, the local government gadflies who hold our toes to the fire, deserved or not,.

From the LA Times article, it appears that the apparatus by which Councilmembers were able to enrich themselves was by a ballot measure in a special election in 2005 - voter turnout - well, 99% stayed home that day.  This allowed the Councilmembers to pay themselves for every hat they wore, toting up the compensation meeting by meeting; allowed Councilmembers to approve adminstrators' pay well over the norm through confidential performance evaluations/compensation negotiations - those may legally be in closed session, but the appropriation of any of that funding to cut those paychecks - well, hello Sunshine laws.

Now, a special election costs and must be authorized in open sessions.  Apparently no one wondered - why a special election on one issue - changing the legal structure from a general law to charter city.  Apparently no one challenged scheduling and paying the high costs of a special election at a time when most California cities are struggling to pay for cops and firefighters (another story, another day).

Apparently, no one attended open budget sessions where compensation for high-paid employees would have been included as part of overall budget.  Now, believe me, Council budget sessions are tedious, detailed, long and generally wet dreams for wonks only.  However, in our town, the local newspaper annually publishes all city employee salaries/wages by job title - yup, they can do that - it's public information.   Yup, we all look like overpaid bureaucrats and are ripe for the criticism by those who don't really understand our jobs or the demands.  You betcha, it's not comfortable, but it goes with the territory.

Someone in Bell dropped the ball, and it wasn't only those in charge while the store was being looted.

I'll wait for the details of possible collusion, corruption and general bad behavior to unfold, and certainly condemn deliberate criminal activity, but some of this was, on its face, legal and done in plain sight ....if only someone had been there to shout "the emperor has no clothes and is looting the Gap store."

Citizens - ask the tough questions - in person, by mail, by email - so that accountability is not left to the vagaries of whether the LA Times will do an investigation.  It's your right, it's your responsibility.

(I'm guessing some lower level employee whose work produces those hefty paychecks or some ex-employee blew the whistle on this saga...)

Meanwhile:  today's tune - Pink Floyd - what else, "Money"


  1. Hummm, I wonder if Meg Whitman ever lived in Bell?

  2. apathy - that is the biggest threat to the freedom of America.

    It will just slip away while nobody is paying attention.

  3. This is one of the best examples of a painful wake-up call that I've ever seen. Retrospect is a painful point of view and the good people of Bell have now realized that their one little vote DOES make a difference. It's striking how greed never seems to fade and how public service is too often a front for private sustenance. All I can say it, I hope to God there's a way to rescind the pensions. At the end of the day, a lifetime of bloated overpayment will surely be the salt in the wounds if it's not stopped.