TOP-HEAVINESS JACKS-UP THE COST OF CITY GOVERNMENT

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In Los Angeles, residents pay more than they should for City services because departments suffer from that ancient, bureaucratic disease: “Top-heaviness.” Now, organizations are said to be top-heavy if they have more management levels than they need. But in this column, that term is based, not on management levels, but on highly paid employees.

As a taxpayer, I question whether any City department really needs more than one Assistant General Manager. Nor am I persuaded that Assistant GMs should be civil service exempt. Yet, for all the talk about reducing the cost of City government — which I support — I have not heard anything that lets me believe the Bosses actually want to cut costs/maintain service at City Hall.

Consider. The Community Development Department employs fewer than 200 workers. It has a General Manager who is paid $195, 592 a year, and 3 Assistant General Managers each of whom gets an annual salary of $171,000. Understandably, having 3 Assistants is good for the General Manager’s ego, but how does it help the people that CDD is supposed to serve?

Or consider the Information Technology Agency. Its General Manager gets $241,122 a year. Does that Department need 3 exempt, Assistant General Managers — does it need to pay them a combined salary of $537,000 a year to manage 374 employees? Does that benefit the Public?

And consider the Department of Building and Safety, with a workforce of 723 employees. The Superintendent of Building is paid an annual salary of $211,994. And he’s assisted by no less than 5 Deputy Superintendents! One Deputy gets $196,000 a year, another gets $154,000 and each of the other 3 gets $176,000. Management salaries are called “General Administrative Support.” Well, $1,089,994 is a lot of GAS for one City agency!

But no City department is more top-heavy than the Mayor’s Office. Consider these statistics: Mayor Villaraigosa gets an annual salary of $232,425. His Chief of Staff gets $189,973 a year. He has two Deputy Mayors each of whom gets $169,000 a year; another Deputy Mayor gets $161,000 a year, and each of his other 8 Deputy Mayors gets $153,000 a year.

But that’s just the beginning. In addition to the high-priced help referenced above, Mayor Villaraigosa employs a Chief Legislative Representative ($148,000 a year) and a Chief Administrative Assistant ($137,000 a year). And to top that off, he employs 162 Mayoral Aides, 17 of whom get over $100,000 a year, and all but a few of them get over $40,000 a year.

These salary figures, taken from an official City report dated January 13, 2012, show that the average employee in the Mayor’s Office gets over $85,000 a year. NOW THAT’S TOP-HEAVINESS!

As this column is written, the Mayor’s proposed budget for 2012-13 is being studied by the Council’s Budget Committee. A huge revenue gap and a whole lot of layoffs have already been predicted. And if past practice is any guide, layoffs will involve only worker-level employees — employees who are actively providing services to the people of Los Angeles. In addition to cutting services, that would exacerbate the existing top-heaviness problem in City Service.

You can email this writer at samuelmsperling@yahoo.com.

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