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Costa Mesa releases compensation report

Some open-government advocates praise the 27-page document

union spokeswoman calls it a 'completely incorrect picture.'

August 09, 2011|By Joseph Serna, joseph.serna@latimes.com

COSTA MESA — Open-government advocates described the city's Tuesday release of a 27-page document listing compensation packages for all City Hall employees as among the most detailed reports they've ever seen.

"They're to be congratulated," said Terry Francke, general counsel for Californians Aware, a Carmichael-based government watchdog group. "It's far above average. I don't have any basis for saying it is among the most detailed disclosures [in the country], but I suspect it probably is."

The report, posted on the city's website under the "Transparency" page, identifies 572 current and former full- and part-time employees mostly by name. It breaks down their overall compensation into columns for base pay, overtime, health benefits and pension costs, among other categories.

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The data is for the 2010 calendar year, city officials said.

Council members' compensation packages are also listed under the website's Transparency section.

"I think a lot of people who follow local government were shaken by stories like Bell," said Diana Lopez, senior editor for the Sunshine Review, a nonprofit advocate for state and local government transparency, referring to the L.A. County city's case of municipal government corruption. "The pros of providing the information before citizens request it is it encourages citizens to become involved in their government as watchdogs … sites like this can expose waste and fraud."

The report is a revamped version of an older 2010 compensation listing that the city had posted online, and draws on the same data. The new version explains what each category means, clearly delineates pay from pension costs, and even shows how city workers are compensated through special provisions like a car allowance.

"If someone for the first time looked at both of those reports, we think it'd be easier for the general public to understand what's occurring, based on the new format," city Chief Executive Tom Hatch said.

Francke suggested that the document's publication could also help Costa Mesa's employees.

"I suspect that part of the benefit of this degree of disclosure is the employees themselves for the first time have a sense of comparison among all employees as to how well they're being compensated," he said. "Part of the value is internally employees have a basis for judging whether the compensation practices are somehow out of kilter … or if so-and-so happens to be getting more overtime hours than anyone else."

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