Saturday, July 2, 2011

Burbank's City Bonuses Finally Come to Light

We've been following developments in the transparency-challenged entertainment-industry hub of Burbank since early May, when it refused a public records request by the Burbank Leader for information pertaining to its employee bonuses. Their reason for refusal, which seemed a little dubious to us, was that disclosing bonuses would harm the morale of the city's least competent workers. Since then, the city's government has aroused our suspicion by killing a plan to eliminate nepotism in its hiring practices, and by fighting a plan to fix the city's finances by freezing bonus pay to its highest-salaried workers. And now, after being ordered by a judge to comply with the Leader's records request, we're finally seeing what Burbank was trying to avoid disclosing about its bonuses.

According to the LA Times, while the city has claimed that the bonuses are needed to attract and retain its best employees, the records show that city has paid out bonuses to hundreds of its rank and file employees over the past four years, spending about $4 million since July 2007. For a point of comparison, the neighboring city of Glendale, which is twice as large, paid out $1 million in bonuses to its workers over a 10-year period. Some Burbank employees have earned tens of thousands in bonuses, with Water and Power General Manager Ron Davis topping the charts with $79,000 in bonuses in four years. Residents were outraged by the news, and you can hardly blame them: bonuses do get factored into city workers' pensions, and a $7 million spike in pension payments has been the primary culprit in Burbank's $8.7 million budget deficit for the upcoming fiscal year. That deficit, by the way, still hasn't been resolved.

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