The following letter was written in response to the reported salaries of Bell city officials. It was written by Kevin O’Rourke, Chair of the California ICMA Committee on the Profession and a retired California City Manager and was co-signed by Dave Mora, ICMA West Coast Regional Director and also a retired California City Manager.

We first want to commend the Los Angeles Times for its recent articles regarding the compensation of appointed officials in the city of Bell.

While the disclosure of the amount of compensation being paid to the Chief Administrative Officer and others was surprising because of the amounts, the actual publication of the compensation serves a legitimate public information process and also provides us the ability to submit these comments.

As retired California City Managers with over 35 years each of service to California communities, we must state for the record that the compensation provided to the Bell Chief Administrative Officer is far beyond the norm in our profession and is not at all reflective of compensation provided to professional local government managers.

The extraordinary annual compensation increases are similarly far outside the norm and completely opposite of the actions currently being taken by professional local government managers in California cities and counties.

City Managers, City Administrators, County Administrators and other chief administrative officials not only deferring compensation increases, many are reducing their own salaries and benefits in order to assist local governments to balance budgets in order to provide services to residents.

While the ultimate decision for the manager’s and CAO’s compensation is the responsibility of the local elected officials, it is also the responsibility of professional local government managers to assure that their compensation is within reasonable, acceptable norms. Yes, there may be debate on what is ultimately reasonable and acceptable. In our opinion, there is no debate and no question that the compensation provided to the CAO of Bell is not within any norm and is not reasonable from any perspective.

The compensation policies in the city of Bell in now way reflect those of the local government professionals of the International City / County Management Association.

Local government professional mangers should be compensated fairly, equitably, and with recognition of services provided. The compensation provided to the CAO of Bell far exceeds any of the norms and standards that can be applied to local government managers compensation.