Looking over the agenda for the Tustin City Council this Tuesday are several items of interest. Of course, the first thing on the agenda is the closed session. Prior to that session, the public is allowed to comment on any items the council will discuss in private. Two items of concern for every Tustinite are the pair of lawsuits pending between TUSD and the City. If nothing else, members of the community should comment on the waste of money by Tammany Hall Tustin on these two lawsuits. The City has spent a small fortune on litigation that serves no purpose but to drive a wedge between the city and the district.
A public hearing will be held regarding the JAG Grant. The police department is asking to use the grant to combat methamphetamine (no, we don’t have a meth problem in Tustin) and for related equipment. A great idea. We recommend the city council approve the grant.
One item we should be concerned about is the proposed double-dipping of Christine Shingleton. It is Item #10 under Regular Business. Shingleton currently works full-time as the Assistant City Manager. According to accompanying documents, she plans to retire effective at the end of the year. Apparently, the city has not heard of succession planning and they intend to rehire Shingleton in the newly created position of “Assistant Executive Director”, a new title for a job with much the same job responsibilities she had as Assistant City Manager. The alleged reason for hiring her back immediately is that she is the only one (we’ve heard this before) with expertise in the Redevelopment Agency with regards to MCAS property. One question we have, of course, is why not hire a new assistant CM and have Shingleton bring them up to speed before she retires? Why the creation of a new position? The answer, of course, is obvious. Shingleton will receive her pension along with a nice salary that could reach $105,000 per year plus minor benefits. That’s not cheap at any rate. Of course, the staff report states that there is no increase in cost, indicating that her current pay and benefits already exceeds the proposed “part-time” pay.
So, we looked into it and found that Shingleton is at the top of her pay scale and receives $180,987 per year in base pay. That is about $87.00 an hour. She also receives a car allowance, health and pension benefits that boost her total compensation to over $230,897 or, about $111.00 per hour. That is not really out of the ballpark for a good assistant city manager, which we assume Christine is. But, instead of using the base pay amount to calculate her double dip in January, the city chose to include total compensation. So, she will continue to effectively receive the cash equivalent of a car allowance, health benefits and pension payment benefits even though PERS should be paying for her healthcare after she retires. That means she pockets the money and, in anyone’s book, that is a raise along with a nice, new executive title.
And, what about when they finally hire a replacement assistant city manager (or a city manager, for that matter)? There is every indication this is an open-ended contract and that Shingleton could continue to serve endlessly, albeit for only 960 hours a year, at the council’s pleasure. We are not accusing anyone specifically around city hall but there is a definite smell of cronyism in the air. And anyone who says this is cost neutral goes to the City of Bell school of accounting. This is one item the council should take a close look at. When I contacted one member of the council, they said they could not discuss an agendized item but that it was “all good”. That indicates to me that this is a done deal unless some citizen stands up and questions what appears to be a common practice for well-liked retiring employees.