Sacramento mayor, council members get pay hike – no matter their attendance record

The Sacramento City Council meets to discuss downtown arena art options on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 in Sacramento, California
The Sacramento City Council meets to discuss downtown arena art options on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 in Sacramento, California jvillegas@sacbee.com

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and City Council members will receive a 2 percent raise after the city’s compensation committee granted them a pay bump Monday night.

But one committee member questioned whether pay could be docked for council members – including the mayor – for leaving meetings early.

“He knows what the schedule is like,” said committee member David Bach, referencing Johnson’s recent spotty attendance at council meetings. “I mean, can’t he work around it somehow?”

RELATED: See our city, county government salary database for Sacramento region

The Sacramento Bee reported that between Oct. 20 and July 19, Johnson stayed until the end of only seven out of 39 City Council meetings. Over that stretch, he was absent from 16 meetings and left early 16 times.

Bach was informed by city staff that pay cannot be withheld for not showing up.

“The only sanction for not attending would be censure” by other council members, said Supervising Deputy City Attorney Gustavo Martinez.

Committee vice chair Howard Posner said that Johnson was in his last few months and that he thought Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg would likely attend more meetings.

“I’ve witnessed the new mayor’s work ethic, and I don’t think that is going to be an issue,” he said.

Johnson’s chief of staff, Crystal Strait, said that being mayor “doesn’t mean just attending City Council meetings.”

“The mayor works tirelessly for the city around the clock, and oftentimes that means he needs to miss council or leave early,” she said. “The mayor has been at council for every major decision that the council has made and will continue to do so.”

Johnson will earn pay based on a $127,722 annual salary until his term ends in December, higher than his $125,218 over the past year. Both of those numbers include a $5,000 expense allowance that previously was paid separately from his salary. The commission voted in January to roll that expense payment into his salary. That expense allowance now counts toward pension calculations, as well as pay hikes.

City Council members will also make a bit more this year, earning $67,087 each, compared with $65,772. Those figures include $2,500 for a general expense allowance.

The pay hikes are retroactive to July 1.

The mayor and council members also receive stipends for their vehicles and technology. The mayor receives $9,200 in combined allowances, while council members get $6,000.

With all expense categories included, the mayor makes $136,922 annually and council members make $73,087.

Members compared local elected officials’ salaries to those in eight cities deemed comparable, including Long Beach, Stockton, San Jose and Riverside. Nationally, salaries in Austin, Texas, and Cincinnati were among those examined, along with Aurora, Colo., and Kansas City, Mo.

The board voted to examine whether City Council members should receive more dramatic salary hikes so they can focus full time on their elected duties. Being mayor is considered a full-time job, but the city charter doesn’t make a distinction for council members. Most council members have outside jobs, splitting their time between governance and private enterprise.

Committee members wondered whether the city would be better served by full-time council members and voted to form an advisory committee of staff and a committee member to craft a proposal for researching the issue. That will likely be done in coming months, before the next budget cycle.

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa