Controller Betty Yee publishes salary data for cities, counties

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 4.35.23 PMPublic employees at California cities and counties took home more than $36 billion in compensation last year, according to new payroll data released by the state’s chief fiscal officer.

State Controller Betty T. Yee disclosed the 2014 payroll data from 54 counties and 468 cities, which included information on more than 600,000 employees. The disclosure is part of the controller’s latest update to the “Government Compensation in California” website.

The open government online portal allows users to map compensation levels throughout the state, assemble charts, evaluate payroll trends and export data for in-depth statistical analysis.

Vernon: Smallest City, Biggest Pay

The state controller’s public employee payroll website has become a powerful tool for journalists and citizen watchdogs to identify wasteful spending and corruption in local government.

Among the municipalities with questionable payroll data from 2014: the city of Vernon. Although it is the least populous city in California, with just 123 residents, Vernon has double number of employees. And those employees earn $103,601 per year in salary — the highest average salary in the state. Vernon employees also take home, on average, another $32,462 per year in health and retirement benefits.

Vernon’s top salary is followed by the city of Hayward with $94,041 average salary, and Palm Desert at $89,582 in average salary. The state controller’s office notes that the average wages for city governments overall fell by 3 percent to $59,614.

In 2014, the average salary for county employees increased by approximately 3 percent to $60,993. At the county level, the nearly 19,000 employees at Santa Clara County received the highest average wage, earning $78,486 per year in wages and $27,655 in retirement and health benefits.

9 Local Governments Fail to Disclose Data

The controller’s office classified six cities as non-compliant entities for having “filed a compensation report that was incomplete, was in a format different than the one requested by the Controller’s Office, or was submitted after the reporting deadline.” San Francisco, the largest non-compliant entity joined the cities of Bell, Compton, Covina, Dana Point and Santa Ana on the list of non-compliant entities.

The counties of Modoc, Monterey and Riverside were the three counties, or 5.3 percent, that failed to file.

The city and county of Los Angeles remain the largest local government agencies. Los Angeles County employs 103,338 people with a cumulative wage of $7.2 billion in annual salary and $2.76 billion in health and retirement benefits. The city of Los Angeles paid out $4.5 billion in wages and $703 million in health and retirement benefits.

Yee’s latest disclosure builds on the work of her predecessor. In 2010, following the high-profile corruption case at the city of Bell, then-Controller John Chiang didn’t wait around for local governments to clean up their act. He ordered cities, counties and special districts, under Government Code sections 12463 and 53892, to share salary and other wage information with his office. Initially, some local governments balked, then dragged their feet in disclosing the payroll data.

To access State Controller Betty Yee’s payroll database, go to publicpay.ca.gov.
Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 4.35.37 PM

Top 10 Highest County Employees in California

1. Faculty Physician-Contract: $1,360,744
Kern County

2.Faculty Physician-Contract: $1,295,929
Kern County

3.Orthopedic Surgeon-Contract: $1,092,651
Kern County

4. Chairman, Department of Surgery: $851,665
Kern County

5. Medical Director II: $775,999
Los Angeles County

6.Physician – VMC: $760,461
Santa Clara County

7. Chief Physician III Surgery-Neurological: $728,489
Los Angeles County

8. Physician: $727,864
San Joaquin County

9. Physician – VMC: $684,365
Santa Clara County

10. Physician – VMC: $658,745
Santa Clara County

Top 10 Highest City Employees in California

1. Police Sergeant: $592,652
City of Burbank

2. Fire Chief: $487,871
City of Richmond

3. Chief Of Police: $487,644
City of El Monte

4. City Manager: $470,249
City of Lincoln

5. City Manager: $419,840
City of West Covina

6. City Attorney: $412,211
City of Escondido

7. Power Engineering Manager: $403,271
City of Los Angeles

8. Assistant City Manager:
$396,548
City of Oxnard

9.City Manager: $395,501
City of Escondido

10. Police Officer (PERS): $393,573
City of Oakland

22 comments

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  1. Richard Rider
    Richard Rider 21 December, 2015, 10:35

    The city of San Diego doesn’t report its pension contributions. “Too much trouble” is the lame excuse. How is that considered here?

    What about part-time employees, or employees who retire or quit in mid-year? How are they treated in the averages?

    Reply this comment
    • Robert Fellner
      Robert Fellner 22 December, 2015, 10:12

      Richard,

      It is treated as if their retirement contributions are $0 for every employee.

      The averages reported by the SCO are extremely inaccurate, for multiple reasons.

      1. Cities such as LA and San Diego do not report pension contributions, the SCO treats them as if their pension costs are $0. So the $703 million in retirement and health costs for LA is for health only. Retirement costs from their actuarial reports are an additional $1.2B.

      2. The SCO reports by position, not employee. Anyone holding multiple positions will have a $0 retirement and health cost for their 2nd position, resulting in an “average” amount 50% less than what they actually received.

      3. The averages are not by employee, they are by rows of data on the SCO report. There are agencies that contain rows with $0 in wages and $0 in benefits for the 2014 year, which is clearly not a city employee. Nonetheless, it is factored into the average as if it is.

      These averages should be totally disregarded as they are not accurate. Perhaps the only thing they reveal is which agencies have the most number of blank rows or interns/volunteers/day laborers with less than $1000 in wages for the year.

      For example,

      I went to the Corte Madera city page on their site and it says “average retirement/health cost: $17,226”.

      So I download their own file for, and without doing anything to the file Excel says the average cost is $46,900!

      How can this be?

      Well, when you download the file all the $0 values turn into dashes, which Excel automatically ignored when computing averages. You’d actually have to manually change those dashes back into zeroes to get the values they are reporting!

      Reply this comment
      • Richard Rider
        Richard Rider 5 January, 2016, 08:38

        VERY illuminating!!! Thanks.

        Of course, you “illumination” is PRECISELY what the public employee labor unions and their political allies desperately seek to avoid. They live and thrive in the shadows — no thanks to the ignorant and too often compliant press.

        Again, thanks for the explanation.

        Reply this comment
  2. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 21 December, 2015, 12:33

    “8. Assistant City Manager:
    $396,548
    City of Oxnard”

    How on earth can an ASSISTANT make that kind of money?? Opsss…. wait, this is government we’re talking about here, land of fraud and scams. Same as Fatty Rizzo and Angela Spaccia,,,,My bad.

    Reply this comment
    • Donkey
      Donkey 21 December, 2015, 13:05

      Yea Rex, it’s all a scam!! Produce nothing but paperwork and retire a millionaire! 🙂

      Reply this comment
  3. Donkey
    Donkey 21 December, 2015, 13:04

    The RAGWUS at its best, over paying people for doing little to nothing!! 🙂

    Reply this comment
  4. NTHEOC
    NTHEOC 21 December, 2015, 17:26

    The SB Terrorist attack reminded us just how valuable all our first responders are! Well worth the pay.

    Reply this comment
    • Rex the Wonder Dog!
      Rex the Wonder Dog! 21 December, 2015, 19:20

      Do you never cease at tooting your own horn at every tragedy????

      You have a GED job, ANYONE can do it.

      Reply this comment
    • Ted. Mentor to the doomed....
      Ted. Mentor to the doomed.... 21 December, 2015, 21:41

      Well said ntheoc– well worth it– although i think we can cut a bit from a few of these Chief’s salaries in this article— truth is these big salaries are the exception to the rule. But it sure spins up the gadflys……in 3,2,1…

      Reply this comment
    • Richard Rider
      Richard Rider 5 January, 2016, 08:44

      By grossly overpaying and over-pensioning our police, we have a slower response time with fewer cops. If you want to dredge up the SB terrorist attack as an plug for your high pay, let’s consider ALL the aspects of overpaying our cops — who didn’t show up in time.

      FACT: Average California firefighter paid 60% more than paid firefighters in other 49 states. CA cops paid 56% more. CA 2011 median household income (including gov’t workers) is 13.4% above nat’l avg. http://www.tinyurl.com/CA-ff-and-cop-pay and http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_income

      Reply this comment
  5. NTHEOC
    NTHEOC 21 December, 2015, 17:29

    Hey Doomers, when are you going to join the rest of the State and support your public employees??? Lol, actually it’s more fun just sticking it to you morons….

    Reply this comment
  6. NTHEOC
    NTHEOC 21 December, 2015, 17:30

    Donkey is a closet RAGWUS lover!!!!!!

    Reply this comment
  7. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 21 December, 2015, 18:32

    She would be any relation to the notorious Leeland Yee by the way?

    Reply this comment
  8. desmond
    desmond 22 December, 2015, 04:48

    Canada is so impressed with US police departments use of civil forfeiture, it advises its citizens not to carry much cash traveling here.
    Congratulations.
    The USA cautioned travelers to Germany in the 1930’s. Nice company.

    Reply this comment
  9. NTHEOC
    NTHEOC 24 December, 2015, 08:16

    Orange County employees to get 10% pay raise over the next 3 years.
    SANTA ANA – Employees with Orange County’s largest union are heading into the holidays assured of their biggest salary raise since the recession, under a three-year contract the Board of Supervisors approved Wednesday morning. BOOM! MERRY CHRISTMAS. Its going to be another great year for negotiations, especially for public safety!!!

    Reply this comment
  10. bob
    bob 30 January, 2016, 17:59

    Mommas don’t let your babies grow up to be anything but government employees!

    Reply this comment
  11. Jack B
    Jack B 1 February, 2018, 12:30

    I can’t believe a fireman at only $488,00 makes only $75,660 more than the city attorney who only needed 6 to 8 extra years of schooling. He should bring up 911 again and arrange another parade for himself.

    Reply this comment

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John Hrabe

John Hrabe

John Hrabe spends his time traveling the world as a freelance journalist. When he isn’t on an international flight, John writes about California politics for CalWatchdog.com and CalNewsroom.com.

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