The city’s 15 highest-paid employees averaged $135,000 in annual salary in 2012, according to recent figures released by the California State Controller’s office. The top 15 earners in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District took home an average of $139,000.
The 2012 salary numbers are the most recent released by the state controller’s office, which began requiring California cities to disclose salary information in 2009 after a widely publicized employee salary scandal in the City of Bell, Calif. that year.
Approximately 31 city employees earned at least $100,000 in salary and benefits in 2012. That number is a marked increase since 2009, when only 16 workers earned more than $100,000 in salary and benefits.
City Manager Jim Thorsen remained the city’s highest earner with $273,606 in total compensation, making $209,229 in salary and $64,377 in benefits. Stacked up against similar-sized cities, Thorsen earned relatively less than city managers in Agoura Hills, Westlake Village and Calabasas where city manager salaries ranged from $225,000 to $236,000 in 2012.
Malibu Public Works Director Bob Brager pocketed the second-highest city salary in 2012, bringing in $172,429 in salary and $46,736 in benefits.
Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman followed close behind with $172,395 in salary and $46,736 in benefits.
Compared to towns of a similar size or population, Malibu’s salaries fell in a middle range. Malibu’s top 5 wage-earners averaged $224,664 in salar y and benefits, slightly above Agoura Hills’ top 5 earners—$216,563—and below the similarly sized coastal town of Port Hueneme, where the 5 highest paid employees earned an average of $247,730.
Not included in the figures released by the state was the compensation for Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin. Due to her status as a contracted employee with the city, rather than full-time, Hogin’s salary was not submitted to the state, which surveys only public employees.
According to numbers provided by Feldman’s office, the city paid $555,340 in total legal fees to Hogin’s firm in 2012. Of that total, roughly half—$265,404— went toward “general legal counsel.” Another $289,936 was spent in ongoing litigation fees.
Hogin’s firm was paid $21,640 per month from January through June 2012 and $22,094 per month from July through December 2012 for its legal counsel, Feldman said.
Feldman said paying a pre-established price each month works out better for the city.
“The city has an advantageous flat-fee arrangement with Jenkins & Hogin, LLP for these services,” she wrote in an email.
Monthly legal counsel fees are spread among four to five attorneys who handle Malibu’s cases at Hogin’s firm. Assistant City Attorney Gregg Kovacevich is also paid for providing legal counsel at Planning Commission meetings. The firm’s legal duties include review of city contracts, resolutions and ordinances; Brown Act advice; personnel issues; first amendment issues; and public works bidding.
Hogin has served on and off as city attorney since Malibu incorporated in 1991. She also serves as city attorney for the cities of Lomita and Ranchos Palos Verdes and assistant city attorney in West Hollywood. Her husband and firm co-founder Mike Jenkins serves as city attorney for Hermosa Beach, Rolling Hills Estates and West Hollywood.
15 school district employees average nearly $140K
Superintendent Sandra Lyon is the highest paid Santa Monica- Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) employee, taking home $230,000 in base salary, which is less than the superintendents at most of the districts surveyed for this report.
The average of the top 15 highest paid district employees is $139,732. Pasadena Unified School District’s top 15 earners average $138,160. At Beverly Hills Unified School District, the mean was $128,458 and at Burbank Unified School District it was $116,957.
No SMMUSD teachers made the list of the top 23 highest paid district employees in 2013-14, but 10 principals did. Santa Monica High School’s Eva Mayoral was the highest-paid principal, bringing in $133,188 this year. Malibu High School’s Jerry Block made $123,684.
A portion of this story previously appeared in the Santa Monica Daily Press.