Tustin’s New City Manager

New Tustin City Manager Jeff Parker

Photo From SGVTribune.com

I must admit, I am a bit late in getting this out to you. But, with Thanksgiving duties just barely completed and the Annual Christmas Tree (or is that Holiday Tree) lighting coming up, it has been a bit busy around here. Much more so than Tustin Tammany Hall where the Planning Commission has cancelled the December 6th meeting and the City Council (and probably the Planning Commission) has elected not to meet on December 20th.

So, I finally asked for, and received, a copy of the new City Manager’s employment contract. I must say, Jeff Parker, at the age of 55, comes with some nice credentials and his new salary reflects just how much the City Council must like the guy.

For starters, Parker will begin work on December 29, 2011. That is a very important date, as I will explain later. Suffice it to say, the city council was willing to pay a premium for Parker. When he does start work, he will come in at an annual salary of $248,000 per year. To put this in perspective, the city of Irvine pays its city manager $257,000 per year with roughly twice the population to contend with. You could go with physical size but, you would lose out there as well. Tustin is roughly one sixth the size of Irvine.  In fact, our new city manager comes in at about the same compensation as the city managers for Laguna Niguel (Pop. 62,979) and Fountain Valley (Pop. 55,313). As a study conducted by graduate students after the Bell scandal revealed, size doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to salaries for city managers. In fact, it appears to come down to “let’s make a deal.” As with most things Tustin, Jeff’s salary comes in around the middle of other cities in the Real OC.

In other compensation, I was not surprised to find that Jeff will get either a city owned car or a car allowance. I guess it depends on whether he sees himself in that new white Dodge Charger or not. He may be able to finagle a flashing blue light for the rear deck out of the deal as well.  No one is saying how much the car allowance would be if he decides to opt for that. I guess he has further negotiations to contend with, should he go that route. He also gets enhanced retiree medical benefits (assuming Jerry doesn’t fire him first) and the city will credit his leave account with 200 hours of leave time by the first of the year. After that, he gets the executive management usual of 248 hours per year. Well, that’s not too out of line. We are talking, of course, about a well-qualified individual that Jerry likes (so far). Jeff will also get up to two grand a year to maintain “current technology”. Huh. All this and he gets the city owned iPad too?

So, what about retirement? As I looked further, I found I had to locate the memorandum of understanding for the other executive managers to find out just what Jeff’s retirement would look like. And this is where his start date becomes important. You see, if Jeff were to start just 3 days later, say, on January 1, 2012, he would receive the new retirement benefit of 2%@60, meaning he could retire at age 60 with 2% of his salary for every year of service paid into CALPERS. This is the newly negotiated terms for miscellaneous city employee retirement.

But, because he will start on December 29th of this year, he will fall under the old 2%@55 system that is applicable to all non-safety employees starting before the end of this year. That is a substantial perk and one that the citizens of our fair city should be outraged about. In fact, it would be like giving Parker at least a 12% increase in his retirement and that is “spiking” in anyone’s book. On a salary of $248,000 per year, that comes out to nearly $13,000 more per year.

But, wait, there’s more.

Besides requiring Jeff (and all their executives, by the way) to pay only 4% of his CALPERS contribution, with the city paying the rest, the city also agreed to pay into a defined contribution plan the sum of $16,000 per year. This is roughly equal to a 6% bonus just for being a good guy. That’s on top of the 200 hours of vacation pay he gets up front and the city furnished car/car allowance. Oh, and by the way, paying 4% contribution into your retirement account is far below the actuarial cost of the retirement for most employees so he is getting a bargain there as well. We won’t complain too much, however, as it seems the  city pays a good portion of many of the city employees retirement contributions, including our friends in public safety. And, they are making headway to resolve this inequity through renegotiated MOUs.

So, is the city getting a bargain or are we getting screwed ala Amante and his wrecking crew? It seems all of the records for our previous manager, David Biggs, have been eliminated from the city’s website and a quick  check around the internet gives little indication of his salary at the time of termination. However, from his severance pay, we can deduce he was paid around the same amount as Jeff Parker will receive. Likewise, we can assume that benefits will be about the same (particularly for pension contributions).Jeff comes highly recommended by his previous employer, the city of Claremont. City Councilman Opanyi Nasiali described Parker as “a low-key kind of manager which is a credit to his managerial style. It’s our loss but I think Tustin is getting a good manager.”

And, from the looks of things, it seems that Parker may be around longer than Biggs. That is because he appears to be playing ball with Amante in regard to the Tustin Unified School District lawsuits. An olive branch, albeit a weak one, has been held out to the Superintendent, presumably with the new City Manager’s knowledge. Of course, we won’t get a response from the District until they meet in December. In any case, we won’t hold it against Jeff if he maintains that low key aspect for the next year, dodges any bullets tossed his way by Jerry’s hit man and waits for a new City Council before making any significant changes. We look forward to a time when Parker will be able to exercise the full authority of his position without having to look over his shoulder for Hizzoner.

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About Jeff Gallagher

My day job is a peace officer for the 2nd largest law enforcement agency in Orange County. I live in and love Tustin where my family and I have resided for the past 17 years. I am a highly moderate libertarian that despises hardcore Republicans, Democrats and anyone else who is not willing to compromise for the good of the people.

Posted on November 27, 2011, in Local Government, orange county, politics, Tustin City Council and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great post Jeff; Tustin is about half the size of Irvine when it comes to population. When is the neew city manager ready to actually sit down and talk about his (ahead, I mean, Jerry’s) vision for Tustin?

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