The reports of the city of Bell’s shameful employee salaries have brought about a fury of coverage and an even greater fury of outrage.

Now watchdogs are beginning to scrutinize their own local governments.

The O.C. Watchdog, quickly becoming one of my favorite overseers of what’s really going on, reported on Wednesday that San Juan Capistrano’s City Manager Joe Tait is also the city’s utilities director.

Both full-time jobs, both collect hefty full-time salaries.

Tait is earning $324,000 this year for both of his jobs. Yup, doesn’t smell right, does it?

But Tait explained himself …

“I save the residents of San Juan Capistrano greater than $160,000 per year by combining two public-sector positions into one contract-based, annual amount,” Tait told the O.C. Watchdog in an e-mail.

The Watchdog provided the following graphic and explanation to help Tait describe the savings:

According to the report:

The majority of the $160,000 savings is a result of the fact that Tait doesn’t receive any standard benefits: No 401(k), medical coverage, long-term disability coverage, city cell phone, etc. (Those benefits cost oodles, as the chart above shows.) His tenure, regardless of duration, results in a zero percent hit on the city’s pension funds. Few city managers are on flat, no-benefit contracts, making Tait in an “extreme minority.”

My question: Is Tait working 80-100 hours per week servicing both of these full-time positions? If the workload is light enough to be handled by two positions, why are the salaries so high?

I’m not saying that Tait isn’t a hard-worker, but I think this deserves closer attention.

Teri Sforza, who does an absolutely excellent job, writes for the O.C. Watchdog, a O.C. Register blog. Read further through their reports for detailed information on city manager compensation stories.

You can reach PublicCEO Editor James Spencer at