Staff Salary Increases in Glendale Amid the Recession; An Open Letter to City Council

By Herbert Molano

For several years, I’ve looked at the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) of the GMA (Glendale Management Association) with the city and hardly anything has changed to the long list of benefits outside of the regular pay. There are many areas that need further evaluation, and I suggest the city council brings those up for open discussion. 

The list of post-employment benefits and numerous reimbursements such as classes deemed to be applicable to their job adds an administrative load to manage these benefits and may be of doubtful value to the residents of Glendale. That should be the key measure of any benefit – How does the extra benefit improve the residents of Glendale or enhance its recruitment of good employees?   The city will pay up to $4,000 annually towards the education of employees ($20,000 every five years) and then when the employee gets a degree, the city adds on a monthly amount $250 or so to the monthly pay) 

Though the MOU you approved last night is for the non-sworn managers, it bears to highlight how MOUs for other managers are evaluated. Glendale is a safe city by many measures. Clearly a potential police recruit would rather work for Glendale than the city of Los Angeles for that reason. Do these other ancillary benefits change Glendale’s potential for getting better recruits? I highly doubt it. 

The managers of Public Works are responsible for the maintenance and reconstruction of roads. We have a large number of roads that are severely deficient and years without any roads being reconstructed. What is the measure of effectiveness for these managers? How accurate are their assessments of the road conditions? How effective are the costs we incur? These are evaluative questions that merit discussion of pay and pay raises. What if the cost of hiring the Los Angeles Public Works road maintenance crews results in a 20% savings? Would that not be a consideration for a pay bonus? This example is an appeal to encourage the city council to make management pay and benefits relevant to performance. That’s why having the GMA as a negotiating entity for pay is a disservice to the city and creates uncontrolled costs. 

Twelve years ago, I requested through the CPRA the source documents on the request for reimbursement for college classes and found paid reimbursements for classes on Shakespeare. How are such expenditures relevant to Glendale’s taxpayers? 

The additional array of benefits add costs to the city that are not considered large enough to discuss during council presentations of the MOU by city staff. These costs are taken for granted. But the mindset It gives employees of all these prerogatives needs to change if we are going to turn around the continual increase of pay and benefits, and I think streamlining and cutting these ancillary benefits are a good place to start.

But there is a place where the city must put a greater effort. The city staff does not seem to have sufficient employees with proficiency in statistics or project management, two highly essential skills that should be part of the employment requirements for all managers in a city that deals with large populations and a long list of projects. Yet essential requirements for proficiency in these skills lare not part of these MOUs

Managers should be held accountable to the performance objectives of their unit to improve productivity, reduce costs, or initiate programs that can be measured in the resident’s quality of life. Yet, objectives are not specified. Pay raises are granted under child-like terms like “me-too” terms that if someone else gets a pay increase the “me-too” forces an increase elsewhere. Worse still is to have “me-too” clauses that were negotiated for one city division (Electrical Workers) to then be applied elsewhere. In effect, when you approve an MOU, you may not have any idea what other divisions or layers of management may be impacted with increases. 

In 2009 I evaluated the Workforce Demographics Report the city prepares for Federal agencies. It showed a nearly 50% increase in mid-management jobs and a nearly 3% increase in rank-and-file employees between 1998 and 2008. Once exposed the report was changed in subsequent years to remove many of the job titles from the designation of “manager.” These are the reports that are relevant in evaluating an MOU. Yet these are sorely missing from the report of these managers to you. Council must be aware of the difference between “Positions” and FTE (Full time equivalent employee numbers) Allowing the budgetary concession to remove non-existent potential employees lowers the apparent costs. But this move makes room for pay increases and still appear as if departmental budgets have been reduced. 

The MOU you approved last night had no summary of the cost impact. That very fact tells me that a key managerial skill – how to synthesize and make a presentation that is clear for decision-making, is sorely missing from the top managers themselves. We don’t know the total additional annual cost for all the pay and benefits in that package. We also don’t know what the impact is on the long-term post-employment benefits are.

Does Glendale need the Verdugo Fire Academy? Los Angeles with over 3,500 firefighters just graduated 49 recruits. Should the city simply assign its Fire Department recruits to academies run by trusted departments at other cities that have more extensive and wider experience? (Glendale has very few structural fires per year) My point is to highlight that there are cost-effective ways to run these departments, yet the managers of these departments should be the ones tasked to reduce costs and locate alternative ways to make their departments more productive or effective. But pay raises are not linked to this kind of objective measure. 

I suggest that a major clean up of the myriad of ancillary benefits be undertaken and that these MOUs be streamlined by removing them altogether. I also believe that there are staff reductions or reductions in hours without having any impact in the effectiveness of these departments to the needs of Glendale taxpayers and residents.

By having the GMA as an approved negotiating entity, the city has removed an essential level of accountability by the same people tasked and responsible to performance objectives. I strongly believe that the city should disengage itself from that arrangement. It was established about 15 years ago. We did not need it before then, and we don’t need it now. 

Post Author: Glendale City