THE CACTUS SPEAKS: City’s Employee Raises Assured by Council’s Own Rules

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This new column by Earl Gipson is a view of SeaTac city government. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The SeaTac Blog. We are seeking additional regular columnists to reflect opinions and views of SeaTac residents. Those interested can e-mail us at [email protected].]

by Earl Gipson

Arrogance has no bounds when it comes to SeaTac City employee salaries. Human Resources Director Anh Hoang (winner of last year’s 17K raise) requested Council to approve 4 non-represented “job audit” raises for salaried (non-union) personnel in Tuesday’s “Study” Session. Make no mistake the Council is boxed in to approve these raises by their own inability to understand the salary system and also not enough votes to overturn the rigged ordeal.

Lets see if I can explain this mess. There are 82 ranges (~3 percent each) within the non-represented salary job classifications and 6 step increases within each range (~ 5 percent each). By the Council approved structure, SeaTac uses 13 “comparable” cities within our region to determine the ranges for each loosely defined position. The City Manager does not have to all 13 cities providing information to determine “market value” of any position. In fact only 3 were used in one case with other cites either providing no information or could not be determined (per Ms. Hoang’s own words). Are you following so far?

The City Manager’s (Mr. Cutts) authority in granting non-represented raises is only limited by certain “types” of increases. Merit increases and by salary surveys increases can be granted at will unilaterally by the city Manager. “Salary Audits” are the only thing that needs Council approval and they can increase or decrease (NEVER happened-surprised?) per the procedures. Also, per the 2009 SeaTac Municipal Code changes there is no cap. Does Bell, California ring a bell?

An aside for Parks Director Kit Ledbetter. Mr Ledbetter was one of the recipients of the increases via job audits approved by the Council. Myself and others observed Mr. Ledbetter lurking in the foyer listening (out of sight of the Council) as his increase was debated and giving the thumbs up as it was inevitably approved and promptly exited. Mr. Ledbetter, please show some class next time and at least use the men’s restroom or sit facing the Council. Have to back up quietly when someone hands you your paycheck?

I’m not done yet by any means and the Council Retreat on 02/23/13 will also be covered and I’m sure readers will find that equally enlightening. Curse my memory and records.


One Response to “THE CACTUS SPEAKS: City’s Employee Raises Assured by Council’s Own Rules”
  1. Outside Observer says:

    Mr. Gipson,

    For all your complaining about how SeaTac is heading the way of Bell, California, you leave out a lot of information. For instance, Bell (unlike SeaTac) never won any awards for transparency and excellency in their accounting practices. In Bell, the books were so bad they that couldn’t even tell that tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars were disappearing from the city’s coffers every month.

    Unlike Bell, there has been no widespread voter suppression effort that resulted in only 400 votes being cast in a city of 38,000 (resulting in the loophole that helped the whole mess in Bell to occur in the first place). Say what you will about the last election, but there has been not a shred of evidence of widespread voter fraud, and on top of that, it was a remarkable turnout for a council election–the exact opposite of what happened in Bell.

    For all your words about SeaTac policies driving away businesses, SeaTac is not fleecing its business owners out of tens of thousands of dollars in illegal fees (unlike Bell).

    Unlike Bell, SeaTac’s property taxes aren’t 30% higher than those of surrounding cities; Bell’s property taxes were raised higher than those of Beverly Hills and were the second-highest in all of Los Angeles County.

    Unlike Bell, SeaTac’s city manager isn’t due to receive a $1 million pension when he retires. So far as I know, he’s not currently getting a $1.5 million compensation package per year, and he hasn’t received a 47% raise anytime recently.

    Finally, unlike Bell, SeaTac is actually having these conversations in public, giving information about comparable positions elsewhere nearby (however flawed you feel they are) and being open about their methodology (otherwise you’d have less material for your now-officially regular column–congratulations, by the way).

    Even with all that information given (or perhaps BECAUSE of it), you limit your argument mainly to ill-founded suppositions and irrelevant asides. Even in the one case where you bring up the fact that one position only had three comparables, you neglect to mention the reason: for most cities in this area, the “Paralegal 1” duties are contracted out to law firms. A Google (or Bing, depending on your pleasure) search gives you a quick and dirty result, but it’s good enough to see that the proposed salary (about $62,000 per year) for that position is perfectly normal for someone with responsibilities that put them in the higher-responsibility end of the Paralegal 1 job description or the lower-responsibility end of the Paralegal 2 job description.

    I’d further like to note that nobody on the council, even the more economically conservative ones like Councilmember Forschler, raised any issues with these, even with the paralegal position you referenced. You chalk that up to the council’s general ignorance; but given the professional backgrounds of several of the council members, I find that extraordinarily hard to believe.

    If the council disapproves of the job the city manager is doing or suspects him of fraud or other illegal activity, they can always get rid of him; SeaTac has done it before. Given that nobody on the council, not even those who are normally in your corner, seem to be calling for Mr. Cutts’ head, I’d say he’s just doing his job.

    I look forward to your next column. Have a nice day, Mr. Gipson.