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    Council Gives Exiting Mayor O'Neill Taxpayer-Paid "Golden Handshake," Considers Giving Itself Similar Deal On Retirement: 50 Hours Credited Sick Leave Per Each Year Of Incumbency

    (June 18, 2006) -- Just weeks before her scheduled exit, LB City Councilmembers voted to give Mayor Beverly O'Neill a taxpayer-paid de facto "golden handshake," crediting her on retirement with 50 hours of sick leave per year of incumbency (in her case amounting to 600 hours of sick leave).

    And at their June 20, 2006 meeting, Councilmembers are scheduled to vote on applying the same formula to themselves...which would amount to 400 more hours of sick leave credit for a retiring eight year Councilmember.

    In agendizing the "golden handshake" [our term] for O'Neill, city management didn't publicly state -- and no Councilmember publicly asked -- how much it would cost LB taxpayers. The Council vote to approve it on May 23, 2006 (with Mayor O'Neill absent and Vice Mayor Kell presiding) was 8-0.

    The Council vote came after city management (in a memo that doesn't mention O'Neill by name) agendized an item for the Council's "consent calendar" (no discussion unless requested by a Councilmember or the public) to amend the city's FY 2006 salary resolution by adding "Mayor" to three other citywide elected offices (City Auditor, City Attorney and City Prosecutor) who receive credit for 50 hours sick leave/years of incumbency as a result of a 1997 Council vote. [The three affected officeholders at the time of the 1997 Council vote were then-City Attorney John Calhoun (after his retirement named a Harbor Commissioner by O'Neill), then-City Prosecutor John Van Der Laan and (now exiting) City Auditor Gary Burroughs].

    Seventh district Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga, recently reelected to a second term, pulled the consent calendar item for discussion and asked why Councilmembers shouldn't also be included in the list of elected officeholders qualifying for the 50 hours of sick leave/year of incumbency.

    City Manager Jerry Miller urged the Council to approve the Mayoral change...and deal separately with whether to include Councilmembers in the same formula. Without mentioning O'Neill by name, City Manager Miller called the Mayoral change a matter of some urgency. [The only urgency we can see is whether it will apply to O'Neill's forthcoming retirement.]

    A Council vote on whether to add itself to the 50 hours sick leave/year formula is now on the June 20 City Council "consent calendar" (not scheduled for public discussion unless requested by the public or a Councilmember). That Council meeting is scheduled to begin at a special, earlier time -- 4:00 p.m. -- to accommodate the continued hearing on the LB Airport EIR.

    Action on the Mayoral and Council retirement benefits come almost exactly four years after a 2002 Council-approved "pension spike" for non-public safety city employees (that also benefited Mayor O'Neill). The Council's 2002 action, agendized for the last day of the outgoing Council and the first day of an incoming Council (when attention would be focused on ceremonies, not substance) became an issue in the 2006 Mayor's race...with candidates Bob Foster and Doug Drummond pounding Councilman Frank Colonna for his role in 2002 9-0 "pension spike" votes.

    Mayor O'Neill currently draws a $100,000+/yr salary plus benefits that will be used to calculate her pension...and presumably also the 600 hours of additional credited sick leave. City management's memo accompanying the June 20 Council item to include Councilmembers in the same formula describes adding the benefits for the Mayor as "a minor amendment."

    It's unclear as we post if applying the 50 hours sick leave/years of incumbency to Councilmembers would be based on Councilmembers' current pay rate (1/4 of full time salaries) or their treatment for other purposes as full time employees. plans to seek comment from the City Attorney on Monday June 19.

    City management's memos for the May 23 (Mayoral) and June 20 (Council-related) actions would have "no significant fiscal impact for Fiscal Year 2006."

    For the May 23, 2006 Council meeting at which management sought action on the Mayoral "golden handshake," an agendizing memo by Human Resources Dir. Kevin Boylan and approved on the signature of City Manager Jerry Miller, described the Council action sought as "correcting the provision dealing with sick leave benefits for elected officials," saying that "[i]n 1997, sick leave benefits were provided to the full-time elected positions of City Attorney, City Prosecutor and City Auditor. At that time, it was considered that this provision would also be extended to the City Mayor as well. However, it was recently discovered that the final resolution did not contain that position. City Council action would correct this discrepancy by amending the resolution to include the position of City Mayor."

    Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga pulled the item for discussion and asked City Manager Jerry Miller why Councilmembers weren't included. has transcribed the colloquy:

    Councilwoman Reyes Uranga: ...I wanted to find out why City Council was not included...Upon asking why City Council was not included, there were a couple of reasons given. One is that the City Council in the past, there had been discussion about the Council not being full time. It's my understanding that on paper we're full time, we're just not compensated full time. In fact the National League of Cities did state that in a city our size, the average Councilperson works 45-55 hours a week if not more. The second reason that was given was that most of the Councilpeople have other jobs, where in fact most of the other Councilpeople either don't have jobs or have part time jobs. I believe there's only two or three on the Council that have full time jobs. It really should not be a factor. And the last reason that was given was that this was considered well over ten years ago and had not been discussed since, so my question was, is there a reason why Council, other than the reasons given earlier, why Council would not have been included in this action? And if there's an overwhelming reason why there wouldn't be included in it?

    Vice Mayor Kell: Mr. Miller.

    City Manager Miller: [Gives floor to Dir. of Human Resources Kevin Boylan]

    Mr. Boylan: ...The resolution [to add the Mayor] before you was really an extension of a discussion which had taken place nearly ten years ago [in 1997] which had included the major elected positions which were considered to be at that time full-time. The amendment is one which one which kind of follows-through with the sole position which was not included, that of the position of the city Mayor. If the Council wishes to reconsider the resolution as it's been proposed, they're certainly willing [apparently means able] to do so.

    City Manager Miller: Madam Vice Mayor and Council, it might be that if you wanted to talk about that provision more so, that you might want to refer that for example to the Personnel and Civil Service Committee...I do feel that this matter has some degree of urgency and I would ask you to consider moving this ahead tonight.

    Councilwoman Reyes Uranga: Well, I would not have a problem doing that. However, if it's been ten years since it was last discussed I'm not sure what the urgency other than, perhaps, well, there is someone who I guess one of the elected officials [Mayor O'Neill] will be leaving office soon. Is there anything we need to know other than if we were to make a motion tonight to include City Council, would that be something that would have other factors that maybe we weren't able to foresee today?

    Assistant City Attorney Heather Mahood: ...Just because of the Brown [open meetings] Act, you would have to bring it back. That's a different pay code so you could easily bring it back at your next agenda.

    Vice Mayor Kell: We're moving on for two weeks.

    Councilwoman Reyes Uranga: Well then I will make a motion to go ahead and approve the item and to bring back the consideration of the Section Five elected officials [citywide elected officials, including the Mayor] for inclusion of the City Council. [seconded by Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal]

    Vice Mayor Kell: Alright we have a motion and a second. Any discussion? Hearing no one, please record your vote.

    Clerk Herrera: The motion carries [8-0: Yes: B. Lowenthal, Colonna, O'Donnell; Kell; Richardson; Reyes Uranga; Gabelich; Lerch. Absent: Mayor O'Neill]


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