Does An Army of Exempt Aides Politicize or Corrupt the City’s Civil Service System?


In Los Angeles, Mayor Villaraigosa and the City Council would like us all to know how concerned they are about the high cost of city government. They’re actually laying off civil service employees to close the budget deficit. That’s something few Angelenos thought the politicians would do.

Clearly, the mayor and council are aware of the city’s budget problem. And from their perspective, the drastic step of laying off unionized, civil service employees should convince everyone they’re doing all they can do to bring spending in line with revenues.

Well, maybe they’re not doing all they could do. While laying off a few civil service employees, the mayor and council have retained their authority to hire 452 exempt employees as aides. Had our leaders eliminated their aide army, they could have cut the cost of city salaries by about $28,692,200. They could have done that, but they didn’t.

At city hall, the use of exempt aides is still a well-kept secret. There’s no information available to the public that explains who the aides are, how they’re selected, what they actually do, how they are supervised, and how their work benefits Angelenos.

To learn more about the use of exempt aides by council members, I asked one of them to answer several questions, including those listed here:

How many council aides do you currently employ? How were your aides hired? Prior to appointment, did your aides get a medical examination? A background check? Were they required to meet citizenship or residence requirements?

What do your aides do? Do they all do the same type of work: Do you maintain a set of Position Descriptions, or Duties Statements?

Do your aides drive city vehicles? If so, is their driving record checked before they are appointed? Are they eligible for home garaging? Do they use a city credit card for gas/maintenance, etc?

Are your aides eligible for paid vacations? Paid holidays? Do they get health care benefits? If an aide were injured on the job, would he/she qualify for workers’ compensation?

How are your aides supervised? Do you maintain attendance records? How is the work of your aides evaluated? Are aides promoted on the basis of their work record, or on some other basis?

Are any of your aides related to you, or to other family members? Do you employ aides related to other council members?

How does the average Angeleno benefit from the work your aides do? Can you think of a way the city’s risk of costly litigation is heightened by what an aide does, or fails to do?

To date, the council member has not responded to my request for information. Maybe if he learns this column is being submitted to a community newspaper, he’ll start talking.

Contact Sam Sperling at or (626) 576-8396.

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