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City executives are a bargain Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Sep 17 2011 12:00 PM

Jim Sandoval, Scott Tulloch, Gary Halbert, David Bejarano and Rick Hopkins.These are Chula Vista's top five paid executives. But are they paid appropriately?

Seven months ago, four volunteer citizens were authorized by the City Council to determine the answer to that question. The ad hoc committee, whose members were Bill Hall, Richard Schmidt, Gina Harvey and Diana Edwards, ultimately agreed that, overall, city executives are paid a reasonable salary.

Committee chairman Hall said that in order to evaluate if executives were appropriately compensated, the committee needed to consider officials' backgrounds and responsibilities.

"Our job was to make a fair assessment to give justice to employees so people in the city can sleep better," Hall said. "We didn't see anyone who didn't receive fair and reasonable compensation."

He noted that some executives appeared to be underpaid.

The group looked at individual resumes and compared each individual's salary with others working in private and commercial sector cities with comparable populations, budgets, facilities, number of people supervised and scope of responsibilities, and compared it to other cities including Carlsbad, San Bernardino and Long Beach.

City Manager Jim Sandoval is the city's highest paid executive with an annual salary of almost $208,000 including an 8 percent pension contribution.

Sandoval oversees 924 full- and part-time employees and does not receive bonuses.

During one of the group's August meetings, Harvey said Sandoval has a larger scope of responsibility than most CEOs would have and that she had no problem with his salary.

Hall concurred.

"His level of experience is about as good as we could hope," he said.

In contrast, committee members said they felt police Chief David Bejarano, fire Chief Dave Hanneman and Finance Director Maria Kachadoorian are "very reasonably" paid and possibly underpaid for their scope of work and responsibility.

"With his (Bejarano) resume, experience and what he's responsible for, he's underpaid," Schmidt said during one meeting. "We're getting an incredible value for what we're paying."

Hanneman has 27 years of experience in fire and has been a captain since 1991.

"He has a formidable background like the police chief," Hall said. "He's been in a very senior position for a long time."

The remaining top paid city executives include Kachadoorian, Hanneman, Director of Recreation Buck Martin, Director of Economic/Academic Development Michael Meacham, library Director Betty Waznis, Director of HR and ITS Kelley Bacon and City Clerk Donna Norris.

Chula Vista Human Resources and Information Services Department Director Kelley Bacon provided the committee with resumes, employee position data and market surveys.

Bacon said salaries are based on an individual's qualifications, within broad bands from steps A through E with A being the lowest. There is a 20 percent spread between step A and step E.

Placement is based on experience, education and performance, according to Bacon.

During their deliberations, members of the committee talked about executives' qualifications and accomplishments.

When discussing the salary of the city's library Director Betty Waznis, for example, Schmidt seemed impressed with her ability to cut costs.

"Under budget management, you reduced staff by half and hours went down 18 percent -that's pretty good management," he said.

The suggestion of creating an executive compensation ad hoc committee was put forth by Chula Vista Deputy Mayor Rudy Ramirez during a February council meeting.

Concern over executive compensation arose after years of significant cuts to city services and layoffs.

Ramirez suggested the committee be comprised of individuals who are well known, respected and have stayed out of the political theater.

The council had initially agreed to a 60-day deadline, which the committee did not meet.

Hall most recently served as a San Diego Unified Port District commissioner from June 2 to Sept. 3, 2009, and has sat on several committees including an auditing committee, has been involved in union negotiations and has a background in construction.

Schmidt is the pastor of Concordia Church and School in Eastlake. He has undergraduate degrees and experience in elementary education and youth work, as well as advanced leadership training from the Pastoral Leadership Institute.

Harvey is the vice president of operations and sales for the nation's largest staffing company, Adecco, in the greater Los Angeles area and has 18 years in the staffing and recruiting industry.

Diana Edwards is the owner of North Star United Inc., a management consulting company in the greater San Diego area.

The committee is expected to present their detailed findings to the City Council later this month.

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