In a lengthy exposé first published by Forbes, the nonprofit watchdog’s CEO Adam Andrzejewski details a laundry list of taxpayer money spent on high and numerous city employee salaries. Despite increased spending and debt, Los Angeles asked Congress for an additional taxpayer-funded bailout of $3.9 billion.
Last year, roughly 20,000 city employees’ average pay exceeded $147,000, costing taxpayers $3 billion, Open the Books auditors found. Nearly 2,000 employees out-earned California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s salary of $202,000.
Auditors at OpenTheBooks.com uncovered painters who earned $113,943 in yearly salary and benefits, tree surgeons who earned $207,058, police officers who earned $325,942, legislative analysts who earned $399,631, firefighters who earned $486,674, and harbor boat pilots who earned $515,000.
Areas to cut spending could include the mayor’s office, Open the Books suggests, in which seven “deputy mayors” earned $1.44 million with individual salaries each exceeding $200,000.
The mayor’s executive staff is larger than 48 of the 50 state governors, Open the Books notes, employing 261 people in 2019 costing taxpayers more than $20 million in salaries and benefits.
Another area critiqued was the Los Angeles Police Department. It’s chief, Michael Moore, earned $590,764 in 2019, “double dipping a $350,764 salary and a $240,000 pension.” In 2018, Moore retired. He was rehired 30 days later.
“The golden handshake helped Moore capture a $1.27 million lump sum payout and another $170,000 check for unused sick and vacation days,” Andrezejewski writes.
In 2019, LAPD’s 14,119 employees were paid $1.6 billion in taxpayer-funded salaries and benefits. Roughly 9,280 employees earned more than $100,000 and 451 police officers earned more than $200,000. The top five police officers, sergeants, and detectives earned between $300,000 and $325,000 resulting from “generous overtime benefits ranging from $129,256 to $152,807.”
According to an analysis by the nonprofit organization Truth In Accounting, Los Angeles’ elected officials “have made repeated financial decisions that have left the city with a debt burden of $5.3 billion,” imposing a debt burden of $4,000 on every city taxpayer.
“Los Angeles’ financial problems stem mostly from unfunded retirement obligations that have accumulated over the years,” TIA notes. Of the $64.3 billion in retirement benefits promised, $7.9 billion in pension and $2.8 billion in retiree health care benefits remain unfunded.
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