Coming Soon: A $1-Million A Year Public Employee

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

So much for that old saw that government employees are being paid less than the rest of us so they deserve better benefits.

The Los Angeles Times revealed in a front-page story that Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo is paid a salary of nearly $800,000 a year. His contract calls for annual increases of 12%. That means his one-year increase in salary next year will be over $94,000.

If he stays with the job – and why wouldn’t he – and the contract doesn’t change, the city manager of a city with a 37,000 population will be making more than a million dollars a year in a couple of years.

Highly paid public administrators in Bell don’t stop with the city manager. Police Chief Randy Adams pulls down $457,000 a year. The Times article points out that salary is 50% more than the yearly salary of the Los Angeles police chief and L.A. County sheriff.

Even the assistant Bell city manager is paid more than the L.A. police chief.

The Bell City Council members take care of themselves as well. They are part-time employees who make $100,000 a year. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office is investigating the city council salaries.

These days, when concern about public employee costs and benefits is frequently in the news, the obvious question is what kind of pension will Rizzo receive when he retires?  I’m pretty sure his pension will greatly exceed the salary paid to the President of the United States.

I think it is safe to say Rizzo’s situation will find its way into the debate over taxes and spending in the state. Sure, his is a local situation but taxpayers and the public will find much to grumble about with this story. Taxpayers don’t often differentiate between local and state taxes – they just think of the taxes that they pay to government.

The tale of Rizzo’s outlandish compensation will have currency beyond the small town of Bell.

As the state budget dispute grinds on, and issues on taxes and spending are played out in the initiative battles this fall, I expect Mr. Rizzo will achieve a poster child status in the government spending and public sector benefit debate.

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