News


City manager defends, explains pay strategy

 

In the wake of allegations by a city union that Menlo Park is asking its rank-and-file workers to shoulder the burden of the city's financial stress while rewarding upper-level management, City Manager Glen Rojas defended and explained city policy when it comes to executive compensation.

Service Employees International, the union that represents 152 city workers, has been in negotiations with the city since October 2009, when its previous contract expired. It ran a letter on its Web site dated Jan. 21, alleging that the city is "not willing to commit that executive staff will not get any raises, one-time payments or bonuses." Noting that the union has offered a two-year pay freeze, it asks: "Why isn't executive management committed to help out the same way we are willing to help out?"

When The Almanac asked him to clarify the city's position in regard to executive pay, Mr. Rojas said that, first of all, the city has committed to freezing for two years the salary and bonuses for the 15 management employees not represented by unions. Executive managers did not receive cost-of-living salary increases or bonuses during the current fiscal year, and will not receive them during the upcoming fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2011, he said.

Executive management "is not represented by a union, you're not going to see it in a formal contract, but we have budgeted no increases, including for me," he said.

Renee Morales, a liaison between workers and the SEIU, said union negotiators told him the city was only willing to commit to a one-year pay freeze for managers. A call to the union was not returned.

Mr. Rojas noted that most department heads, including some long-tenured employees, receive salaries that are below the median for the same position in comparable cities.

He added that forgoing bonuses is no small concession, because they factor into the calculation of lifetime pension payments. In a normal economic climate, a management employee who didn't receive a bonus might wonder whether she was in danger of losing her job, he said.

He pointed out that some line-level and middle-management employees can receive performance raises even if the unions agree to a salary freeze, due to a "step increase" clause in union contracts.

"We're trying to find the fairest possible deal for everybody, including the city and its employees, in the long-term," Mr. Rojas said. "That's the bottom line.

"I don't want to create animosity, we're all trying to figure it out, but the budget's not looking real good at mid-year."

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 17, 2010 at 8:09 pm

For those unhappy with not getting raises this year, please resign your position. Public jobs are currently the highest paid with the best benefits and I as well as many people I know would like to apply (from outstanding careers and companies) for your job.


Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Feb 17, 2010 at 10:56 pm

I have a simple solution. Fire every member of a public sector union, and hire their replacements from the ranks of the overqualified unemployed, at the actual market rate. Why should taxpayers pay a dime extra for our public servants?


Like this comment
Posted by Joan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 18, 2010 at 7:55 am

I'm sure there are ways to address the serious problem of out-of-control employee costs. But serious problems require serious, usually difficult efforts to fix. Mr. Davis's "simple solution" adds nothing to a discussion that's urgently needed.

One problem with the contract talks being closed to the public is that we get this kind of "he said she said" situation. Is one party acting in good faith and the other in bad? Several years ago employees were double crossed when they made significant concessions, only to see higher management given either big pay increases or rich bonuses. Since then, my sympathy (and trust) has been with the non-management employees. I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt, and hope the city shows good faith in negotiating with them.


Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 18, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I agree with new guy and Davis. Time to think outside the box and look forward. Whatever happened several years ago is irrelevant.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 18, 2010 at 1:04 pm

I agree with Joan. Simple-minded, knee-jerk solutions are not helpful.

Joseph Davis "solution" reflects an antagonism toward unions but not much familiarity with the law or with good management. Firing of employees is done only for cause. What have these employees done to merit firing except live up to their contracts? Menlo Parks streets are clean, the sewage system works, fires are put out in a timely manner, and police are maintaining order. As far as I can tell, Menlo Park's employees are doing a fine job. Let's stop making them a scapegoat for a down economy and for one's individual frustrations.


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Posted by Getting Informed
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 18, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I'm beginning to do some in-depth research on just what is and what is not allowed, under law when it comes to labor negotiations. I've learned that open negotiations with labor unions and the city CAN be done in the open. The Brown Act stipulates that they can be done behind closed doors, but they don't have to be. Wow! I say, let's open the doors and windows and let the sunshine in.


Like this comment
Posted by Gunther Steinberg
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 18, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Once upon a time, public servants received good benefits and job security in return for lower pay than the private sector. Nowadays, they have retained their benefits, much job security, and frequently get better pay than the private sector, as well as better vacation benefits. Who in private industry can retire after 25 years of service with 60-90% of their pay?
Executives in public service play the same game,tying their salaries to "competing" ones in other towns. They should not be favored in these times unless there is good cause. Retention bonuses are just "blackmail pay". There is a great deal of talent, often with new and better ideas and experience in other areas.


Like this comment
Posted by Long time resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 18, 2010 at 3:41 pm

The only long term solution to this problem is to adjust the retiree benefits. Unfortunately that means we will have to file for bankruptcy reorganization. We are rapidly approaching a scenario where our taxes will only be used to pay retiree benefits. It is very clear the union doesn't care if we cut all services as long as they get theirs.

Our council and upper management is in the unions pocket. They do not represent taxpayers. Their solution is to cut services and raise taxes. If the manager was representing us he would be looking for ways to expel the SEIU and outsource services.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 18, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Getting Informed is absolutely correct - the Brown Act establishes the minimum level of disclosure and any public entity can provide more openness if this so wish.

For example, the Fire District adopted this policy regarding pending labor agreements:

RESOLUTION OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE MENLO PARK FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT ADOPTING A POLICY REGARDING DISTRIBUTION

OF PROPOSED COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENTS




WHEREAS, in accordance with the policy of promoting prompt public access to government records, the California Public Records Act broadly defines public records (Gov. Code Section 6252, subdivision (3)) and the exceptions to disclosing public records under the California Public Records Act are narrow; and



WHEREAS, the Ralph M. Brown Act, Government Code Sections 54950 through 54963, enacted into law in 1953, requires open meetings of local agencies “to curb misuse of the democratic process by secret legislation of public bodies”; and



WHEREAS, the Ralph M. Brown Act “…reflects a legislative determination that ‘public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business,’ and an intent ‘that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly’ (Gov. Code Section 54950); and



WHEREAS, the Ralph M. Brown Act and the California Public Records Act require the District to conduct its business in a transparent manner; and



WHEREAS, the Board, as duly elected representatives of the citizens within the District, in conformance with the Ralph M. Brown Act and the California Public Records Act, is committed to providing the District’s citizens with information considered by the Board in making its decisions; and


WHEREAS, the Board believes due to the importance of proposed collective bargaining agreements with the District employee labor representatives, that these proposed agreements should be made available to the citizens of the District in sufficient time prior to the Board’s adoption of the proposed agreements so as to allow for adequate review and comment by the public prior to final Board action.



NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Directors of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District does hereby move that any proposed collectively bargained labor agreement between the District and designated District employee representatives shall be made publicly available at least fifteen (15) calendar days before the meeting at which the agreement will be acted on by the Board.




PASSED AND ADOPTED as a resolution of the Board of Directors of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District at the Regular Meeting held on the 16th day of December 2008 by the following vote:



AYES: Spencer, Brown, Ohtaki and Carpenter



NOES: Ianson

***********
Not perfect, but a good start


Like this comment
Posted by sports mom
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 18, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Wow so many bitter individuals that should have gotten a job in the public sectors years ago, instead of the private sector making a large salary when the economy was stronger! Now apparently jealous of public employees (rank and file) that work hard for what they take home.


Like this comment
Posted by Lucretia
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Feb 18, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Just once, I'd like to see someone on this forum promote livable wages and good health/retirement benefits for everyone, rather than trying to figure out how to get rid of the few jobs left in this country that make it possible to provide a decent life for your family and then retire with dignity. Honestly, is that such an outrageous thing to aspire to?


Like this comment
Posted by time to empty the trough
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 18, 2010 at 6:07 pm

If you're working for a private employer and that employer wants to provide you with generous retirement benefits, hooray. But when the public is footing the bill, that's a different situation. Why should we be paying outrageous retirement benefits to people who earned plenty of money during their careers? Why didn't those people save enough money from their substantial salaries to fund their own retirement, the way we ordinary working peons have to do?

Expecting a cashiony retirement at the expense of others is a marvelous fantasy. Not outrageous, just absolutely infeasible in 2010 and beyond.


Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 18, 2010 at 7:28 pm

Once again a statewide epidemic to be blamed on locals. This is getting almost ridiculous.


Like this comment
Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 18, 2010 at 10:04 pm

I am not yet advocating firing people. What I do want is for those that feel that other towns pay better (and keep giving raises and bonuses) to please resign and try their hand at getting a job in another town.

The reality is that if things do not improve, all the local towns will eventually have to declare bankruptcy due to retirement packages and falling revenues.

Next thing we are going to read from Rojas is that moral is low because his employees are just not used to not getting raises or bonuses. Please Rojas if this is the case, counsel them to find work somewhere else as I and others will gladly accept and be motivated at those base salaries (and benefits).


Like this comment
Posted by Retired peon
a resident of another community
on Feb 19, 2010 at 10:32 pm

I am a retired public service employee, living now with a disabilitly for the rest of my life as a result of being in public service. I no longer work in public service but do still have to work. I wish those of you who have never been in public service and put your physical health on the line for the "public" would at least attempt to have a sense of the sacrifices made by public service employees. The average life expectancy for police officers is 5 years post retirement, due to greatly increased risk of heart disease, cancer, spinal injuries and suicide. Fire fighters life expectancy post retirement used to be about the same but may have increased to about 8 years due to improvements in protective equipment. Those of you who have an environmentally comfortable, low risk job sitting in a climate controlled office are in a completely different environment and as a result your health does not have the significant potential to suffer due to your work environment.

Even with the pay many of you seem to feel is too high, most public service employees can't afford to live in the immediate bay area if they ever want to own a home. In addition to working regular long hours (10-12 hour shifts) many also have very long daily commutes.

Since police and fire respond to very dangerous and stressfull situations it only seems fair that they are compensated in some manner (such as retirement benefits). They are the people available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to respond to any situation that you may encounter or become an unfortunate victim of. The stress of many of these situations alone increases the risk of physical damage to their bodies, not to mention being harmed by others in the course of their duties to protect.

Please don't forget, we also pay taxes and are contributing to our benefits so you are not alone. Both of these careers are among the most dangerous, of course there are others, most of which are not "white collar" jobs. If you don't have any desire to take on the risks associated with these careers and have never lived their jobs then please don't disrespect those who are willing to put their health, quality of life and life expectancy on the line to try their best to protect your wellfare and quality of life. They respond to all the nasty situations most people would turn and walk away from and make great efforts to find solutions and seek justice.


Like this comment
Posted by time to empty the trough
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 19, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Apparently, the myth that police officers and firefighters die quickly after retirement is an urban legend. See, for example, Web Link

It's easy to understand the origin of this myth, given that public safety officers are known for a propensity for junk food and lack of regular exercise.

In any case, retired peon, most public employees in Menlo Park spend their days working in an "environmentally comfortable, low risk job sitting in a climate controlled office." In fact, I'd say that Menlo Park City Hall is one of the most pleasant office sites in town, fronting a soothing duck pond, mere steps away from lunchtime visits to the pool, gym, or library.

truth, the epidemic may be statewide, but the state seems to be doing nothing to stem the flow. The locals need to reclaim our financial future.


Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 20, 2010 at 8:26 am

This debate circles so much I think I have seen all of these posts now at least two or three times. I find it interesting that someone under an anonymous tag is now trying to debunk the idea that fighting fires and fighting gangs is not dangerous. I am sure you slept well last night under that security in a multi-million dollar home with a nice yard. You probably have plans to get together with your multi-millionaire friends today and let your millionaire to be kids play together. Such a nice picture.

Take away this security and all of that "stuff" you have collected is going to attract the hungry, the desperate and the opportunist who will take what you have and do what they have to do to get it.

That is the real world.

In your greatest time of need, when all the chips are down (or when a plane crashes into your house), you are nothing but vulnerable and you will thank your God for that public servant who saves you. You won't think for a minute about what retirement package he or she has.

As for solving this locally, it won't work. I am not going to accuse you of politics, I think you are sincere in your concern as I am. But I think pounding the table and gnashing teeth locally to solve the problem will only serve the next politician looking for a wedge issue.


Like this comment
Posted by time to empty the trough
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 20, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Truth, can you try to keep this thread on topic and not try to hijack it? If you want to start a thread on whether or not firefighting is dangerous (duh) go for it!

The question on the table is whether your average city employee sitting in his/her comfy office gets paid too much and receives indefensible retirement benefits. `If you have any thoughts on that issue, go ahead and make them please. All I have heard you say is that we can't do anything about this problem, that we have to wait for the state to act. Well, the state isn't acting, and I'm not sure we have any reason to believe that the state is going to resolve this problem. We need real, viable solutions now.


Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 20, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Yeah, your anti-government rants are just so insightful. Especially when you mask them in frothy inquiries as if you are curious. Can you please stop polluting this forum with Glen Beck crap?

And is that the question on the table? Who decided that?

Fact is this, there are very few cities in better fiscal condition than Menlo Park. Do the research and prove that wrong. And when you realize you cannot, then tell me what you think you can do to make this city run better. And if it is another employee is evil statement then you have proven your lack of understanding. I am tired of the armchair quarterbacks in this town.

Now we have a group "reformers" and it is the same group that was here four years ago and pissed off the entire city. And they want a 2 at 60 deal for all employees. But that is what is on the table now. So what is this reform movement really?

Seriously this is like a bad comedy.




Like this comment
Posted by Esteban
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 20, 2010 at 8:06 pm

"truth" always hijacks threads. Just ignore her.

Back on topic... Glenn Rojas makes a pretty penny off of our taxes. Of course he will defend executive pay.

There is no way a person with his experience and education will make a fraction of his salary in the private sector.


Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm

I am aware that taking a different view from the mostly angry, conservative voice in these threads will subject me to vitriol. Par for the course, unfortunately.


Like this comment
Posted by C'mon Truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 22, 2010 at 10:21 pm

C'mon Truth, stop the exaggerations, your vitriol is just as bad, if not worse. "pissed off the entire city"??? What the heck are you talking about? No one really cared at that time. The only thing that happened was your continued over the top marketing that blew out that last crew. You and about 10 other people in a town of 30k, are the only ones that get caught up in the "raise as much revenue, and pay the unions more" campaign. However, your time has come, and FINALLY people are starting to realize that most of a person's hard earned money, should remain with that person that earned it. You always talk about how fiscally responsible this town is, let's think about who was there before this crew on council? And, what is the harm in saving people money, or saving them from more and more waste and unfairness when it comes to bloated pensions and benefits. NO one deserves this kind of plan, particularly when our services are average at best. No one is anti-government, turn off MSNBC. We have no problem in paying for services, but NOT at at this price, or with this type of exploitation of the tax payer.


Like this comment
Posted by C'mon Truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 22, 2010 at 10:25 pm

C'mon Truth, stop the exaggerations, your vitriol is just as bad, if not worse. "pissed off the entire city"??? What the heck are you talking about? No one really cared at that time. The only thing that happened was your continued over the top marketing that blew out that last crew. You and about 10 other people in a town of 30k, are the only ones that get caught up in the "raise as much revenue, and pay the unions more" campaign. However, your time has come, and FINALLY people are starting to realize that most of a person's hard earned money, should remain with that person that earned it. You always talk about how fiscally responsible this town is, let's think about who was there before this crew on council? And, what is the harm in saving people money, or saving them from more and more waste and unfairness when it comes to bloated pensions and benefits. NO one deserves this kind of plan, particularly when our services are average at best. No one is anti-government, turn off MSNBC. We have no problem in paying for services, but NOT at at this price, or with this type of exploitation of the tax payer.


Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 22, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Was there any single shred of data or info in that last post? Nothing but more of the same. Give us our money, down with the unions, what's wrong with Americans keeping what they earned. It is such a generic cliche to act like others want to take your money.

Simple fact of the matter is that this town is better off than most, and you and your little band of bitterness wants to create a panic and try to make some political hay.

Are there places to cut? I guess, I wouldn't know it since I don't have that kind of information. But I won't assume that I know the cuts and how to solve the problem. You are assuming you know something others don't.

The offer SEIU posted included 2 at 60. So why is there this ballot measure? Politics baby. The old Winkler Wedge.



Like this comment
Posted by time to empty the trough
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Feb 23, 2010 at 8:36 am

Truth, I don't see this as a black or white world, your side/my side, liberal/conservative, love unions/hate unions. I don't think a lot of the Mickie/Lee faction and campaigned heavily in '06 to unseat them, if that means anything to you. But I agree with them on this issue.

That said, I have lived in MP for a while, and I have seen the growth in various city departments. Our transportation department has tripled in size, community service has probably doubled. Has service improved? I sure don't see it. And yet, each time a department adds an employee, we taxpayers are on the hook for one more person's generous salary, benefits, and retirement.

In the private sector, companies generally try to accomplish as much as possible with as few people as possible. But remove the competitive aspect of business and you have a different situation Most city managers seem to be motivated to grow headcount and the budget for personal and professional reasons.

Do we need all those people or could the city operate just as well with a smaller work force? Could work be contracted out? Could equally qualified people be hired for less money, without the indefensible retirement benefits? Those are some of the questions that should be on the table, but Rojas would rather not be in that room.


Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 23, 2010 at 10:14 am

I think we are in agreement on the larger picture and I too think it is time to re-evaluate the employee contracts if we can. We have seen growth in some departments, but most recently what I read was a real reduction of 4 FTs -- something around that. I expect to see more, I don't care how it is done, outsource or just don't replace someone, it does not matter. I do see reductions and I do see a 2 at 60 as part of the city offer.

That is my point, you are making valid arguments, but you are coloring it as if there has been nothing done. The city is terrible explaining things and I have to spend way to much time digging to find info, but the fact is there has been some progress.

Some of the commenters here are solely gaming the system to fool people (who don't want to waste time looking for information) into taking their position on false pretenses.

This council is under it, no council has faced this type of barrage in many years. This dwarfs the dotcom stuff. I know everyone wants to stir it up for November, but it would be much better to look at the real world and start from there. There is a contract offer on the table that will help long-term and short-term issues, I like the plan I see for the El Camino stuff but I am sure that will get dunked by the old people in town and then 1300 and Bohannon are going to be battles.

I walked for this council and worked for this council and I think they are a vast improvement. But they aren't perfect, it just seems every commenter here is so stuck on auto drive Fox News style.


Like this comment
Posted by It ain't easy
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Feb 23, 2010 at 8:08 pm

The fact is that costs have to be cut, there are pensions and benefits already vested that cannot be cut, and it is never easy to decide who will bear the brunt of too little money to pay the bills- but I think it is pretty obvious that the more educated upper management, especially ones with experience, are harder to replace than rank and file, harsh as that sounds. The public employees should be treated like private employees- if you aren't essential, are replaceable without too much cost, or aren't doing the most important work- your job is subject to being cut. It hurts, but that is just the way it is. If you want to be assured a position, you have to get the education or experience to set yourself apart, or be too central to the operation to be let go. Union or no union, this is what should govern the council's actions. The fact that you are in a union it should not change the logic. The council has to be brave enough to face down the political pressure the unions bring to bear and make the tough decisions. That is their job.


Like this comment
Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 24, 2010 at 10:34 am

For our leaders to state that they cannot cut costs is the equivalent that they are stating that they are operating as efficiently as possible. We and they know this is not the case. Most of us have traveled outside of Menlo Park, and even the state of California and seen towns that operate with less taxes and fees.

The notion that city employees should constantly compare themselves to other towns and tell us that they need to paid more given x,y, and z, is a farce we have all been suckered into. Maybe is was due to the last 10 great years where coffers were flush (yes they were, even though we were lied to in order to pass the UUT), that we needed to keep paying more to keep all these people since private employers offered the hope for larger paychecks.

This notion simply does not pass, and we should all adjust ourselves to never listen to this notion again. Jobs are a market like anything else, there is supply and demand. Currently there is little to no demand (hiring of any sort) and there is plenty of supply (unemployed).

So where does that leave us. Do we still believe that current management is worth it. Meaning, do they have experience that cannot be purchased for less. The reality is our town is not that big (and the budget smaller than most unemployed managers P&Ls. Information technology enables better communication, etc.

So in the end, what are we purchasing with our tax dollars. Are we getting the most efficient use of our limited resources.

So I will state again, if management are unhappy with not getting raises or bonuses. Please resign. I guarantee there will be people lining up willing to take your job for less pay than you currently have.

Cheers.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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