The controversy surrounding the City of Bell, California has made the small city a topic of near-daily discussions, both in the media and here in Sacramento.

Exorbitantly high salaries and the city’s failure to disclose public information regarding employee and elected official compensation has triggered a reaction by state officials and legislators who are seeking transparency for publicly-provided salaries and benefits.

Counties have long been required by statute and the constitution to publicly set salaries and to operate in a transparent manner. However, recent action by the State Controller, State Treasurer, and the Legislature suggest that counties will face myriad new reporting requirements starting as early as January 2011.

In early August, State Controller John Chiang announced new reporting requirements for all California cities and counties, instructing them to provide the salaries for each classification of elected official and public employee. The Controller is expected to provide a template for the reporting requirements at the end of August. This new report would be submitted along with the currently-required financial summary information provided to the Controller every October. Later in the month, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer asked the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) to review existing policies and determine if new procedures could prevent the abuses that have been disclosed. CalPERS staff are expected to return to their Board in September with recommendations.

Finally, on Thursday, Speaker Pérez, Pro Tem Steinberg, and Legislators held a press conference to announce a package of reform bills to as they stated “prevent Bell scandals”. Highlights of the reform package include:

  • AB 192 (Gatto) would require a CalPERS contracting agency that provides more than a 15 percent raise to an individual to bear the entire cost of the retirement increase even for service with a previous employer covered by CalPERS.
  • AB 194 (Torrico) would create a new cap on total compensation that is used to determine a pension benefit.
  • AB 827 (De La Torre) would prevent “evergreening” clauses (no automatic renewal) in the contracts of unrepresented individuals.
  • AB 1955 (De La Torre) requires the Attorney General to determine whether a charter city is an excess compensation city, as defined, and mandates penalties if such a determination is made.
  • AB 2064 (Huber) requires all levels of government to post salary information on their websites.
  • SB 501 (Correa) would require specified individuals to complete a new salary and benefit disclosure form created by the Secretary of State.

More detailed summaries of each of these measures is available in the Employee Relations policy area section of today’s e-publication.

CSAC is working with involved parties to ensure that these reforms and disclosure requirements are streamlined and effective and implemented with the least amount of duplication.