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Big Daddy

Dear Big Daddy,
You’re the big-money guy, but you’ve got nothing on that former city manager down in Bell who was pulling in $800,000 in base pay – and nearly double that if you throw in vacation. You should be embarrassed.
–Margaret in Atherton

Dear Margaret,
I am embarrassed. I’m more red faced than a parson at a strip club. When I heard about that salary, my jaw dropped lower than the price of winter wheat. Lower than Mike Duvall’s, oh, never mind.

I knew there was heaven on earth somewhere, but I always figured it was Cuernavaca, Mexico, land of the perfect climate, privacy walls, great nightlife and the nearby Marymount all-girls school.

I had no idea it was Bell. In fact, I’ve driven through there twice and made a point of never going back. Now, I think I may want to apply for a job.

But if you’re a public official who wants to be well paid, Bell is heaven on earth. Imagine a town with 42,000 people paying its city manager a base salary that is nearly twice what the President of the United States makes, and paying most of its city council members $100,000 annually.

And now that former city manager can retire on $600,000 a year.  It’s an outrage.

A wise man once said that money was the mother’s milk of politics. If that’s true, these people in Bell were sucking directly from the teat. But that teat belongs to the public. You know what? Perhaps I should rephrase this.

The real question in Bell is, who else was getting rich? What about all the contracts the city had with vendors? If it were in the AG’s office, or even in the Assembly Office of Accountability and Administrative Review (hint, hint), I’d want to know how these high-paid public officials were spending the rest of the public’s money.

But feat not – the attorney general, and the man who wants to be attorney general are now putting aside their partisan differences in the name of some good, old-fashioned political grandstanding. Correct that, I mean, they’re using the power of their joint offices, and subpoenas, for some good, old-fashioned political grandstanding. So, hopefully some answers are coming soon. Lets hope for all our sakes we get those answers before Nov. 3.

OK, so maybe I am a little jealous. If anyone deserved to retire on $600,000 annually, it was me. I ran the state treasurer’s office – and damn well, if I say so. I ran the Council of Institutional Investors – in fact, I helped create it – and roamed the nation wielding clout and cash. I say that’s worth a lot more than being city manager of Bell. Of course, my expenses now are minimal – I’m dead, you know – but in the old days, I ran up quite a tab and could have a six-figure pension.

I think public officials should be well paid, but Bell is ruining it for everybody.

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