Council Works Part-Time, Gets Full-Time Benefits

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I was going take one last swipe at Measure EE, the charter amendment measure, and  give you all sorts of reasons why you should vote “no.” But then I thought, what difference does it make? Since the City Council has ignored the charter, when it comes to their paychecks, why bother with amending it anyway?

As Presdient Obama has indicated, the US Constitution is a series of “negatives” and doesn’t tell you what you should do. Instead the Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights, tells you what government can’t do.

Likewise, the City Charter is quiet whenever we, the people of Newport Beach, agree with the state laws. The charter comes into play when we want to vary from state law.

This is exactly what Costa Mesa is proposing in its10-page charter, which supporters are trying to pass as Measure V next Tuesday. What the city of Costa Mesa is proposing that is different from state law, is things like outsourcing city services, no union membership required for employment, making it illegal for political dues to be taken from employee’s paychecks without permission, and not requiring prevailing wages for public works projects. Those are the sections that have caused the unions to raise and spend nearly $500,000, to date, to defeat Measure V.

Costa Mesa’s Measure V proposes to keep councilmembers’ wages as per state law.

Newport’s charter prohibits “compensation” to councilmember, but provides for an “allowance”. According to a report from the Orange County Grand Jury, the city pays the mayor the second-highest amount in the county. When you add benefits that drops our mayor to fifth in the county. Councilmembers are paid about two-thirds of the mayor’s “allowance.”

The story the council is spreading is that previous City Councils in the 1970s probably made their pay as an “allowance” and outlawed “compensation” in the Charter basically as a tax dodge. Then, when the IRS caught up with them, the 1999 council changed the “allowance” – or in IRS parlance a “1099” – to a “salary” and a “W-2.”

So the City Council decided that, rather than receiving no compensation or salary, so as to avoid violating either the IRS rules or the City Charter, they would give themselves a salary, in conformance with IRS regs but in violation of the charter. Now, years later, the current council, rather than taking no salary as required by the charter, is trying to make their actions legal through EE.

I thought it was usually the other way around?

Probably an even more important issue than compensation that needs to be dealt with, however, is health and retirement benefits. Measure EE is silent on both. The City Council job is clearly a part-time one. Yet the councilmembers get a 100 percent-taxpayer-paid, gold-plated health insurance plan for themselves and their dependents, and a full-time government pension.

Several councilmembers have been bragging to Costa Mesa and other jurisdictions about how they were so successful in renegotiating the pensions for new hires.


How seriously do you think the unions took the council when the council gets the same pension as other non-safety unions’ employees? Whatever happened to leading by example?

But that is a subject for a future column.

I like what the Tustin is proposing by initiative this November in Measure HH.  HH will eliminate council compensation entirely, including benefits. Why didn’t the Newpoert Beach council take the lead here and do something similar? At least eliminate the health care benefits and pensions for part-time councilmembers, and switch to Social Security like the rest of us.

Oh wait, it is already prohibited, and yet they still receive them, anyway.

Never mind.

EE will probably pass, and even if it doesn’t, does it really matter?

I guess I am an idealist and I still believe in the rule of law: Vote “no” on EE.

Any questions, feel free to contact me at [email protected]. Other voting recommendations can be found at




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