KMPH Fox 26 News Investigation: The Valley's Highest Paid Elected Officials and Public Workers
Have you ever wondered how much your tax dollars pay elected officials and local leaders?
KMPH Fox 26 News did.
For months, we sent out Public Records Act requests, asking for information on base salaries, pension and health benefits-- and other stipends.
While most government entities responded, some did not.
So, we turned to databases from the California State Controller's Office and Transparent California, a database set up by the California Policy Center.
We learned that the highest paid public employee in the Central Valley is a doctor.
The police chief with the highest cost of employment in the Central Valley is in Fresno.
Jerry Dyer has been the Police Chief for nearly 13 years.
In that capacity, he manages 940 people.
"You carry the weight of the entire city," he says. "1,100 calls a day. When things go wrong, I'm the person that has to answer for that."
According to Fresno's City Clerk, Dyer's base salary in 2013 was $171,000. That's below the base salary for police chiefs in even smaller cities, including Anaheim, Riverside, and Stockton.
But if you also take into account health benefits, cashed-out vacation, allowances for uniform and cell phone, and pension-- Dyer's cost of employment grew to more than $271,000.
To put that into perspective, that comes out to roughly 50 cents per every resident of Fresno.
"Well, I've never done this job for the pay," Dyer says. "I can tell you in the last two years I was entitled to, offered, a $20,000 bonus each year. I chose not to accept that bonus because our employees were not getting pay raises."
But if Dyer's salary sounds steep, we uncovered that police chiefs in some of the Central Valley's smaller cities don't make much less.
According to the State Controller's Office, the police chief with the second-highest cost of employment is in Madera, at roughly $240,000. That's followed by Clovis at $219,000, Merced at $206,000, and Visalia at $202,000.
But in several cities police chiefs are not the highest paid leaders at the local level -- it's the City Managers.
We investigated records for 32 cities, and uncovered seven city managers who are costing their cities $200,000 or more.
The highest paid was Steve Solomon, who recently retired as City Manager of Visalia.
His cost of employment had been more than $285,000.
Madera was not far behind, around $281,000.
Atwater's City Manager had a cost of employment of $254,000, according to the State Controller's Office.
Fresno's was nearly $251,000, and Dinuba's was $228,000.
City Council members also get paid some of your taxpaying dollars.
In 2013, Fresno City Council members earned somewhere between $77,000 and $84,000.
"I'm a business owner myself. I think that for what we're getting paid, we're doing a great value service to our community," says Steve Brandau, Fresno City Council President.
He says that people forget that a lot of the work council members do, is not even inside of City Hall.
"In District 2, that I represent, I need to meet with people and they want to show me stuff, like 'this is what's going on in my street, or maybe someone wants to build something," Brandau says. He adds that things get especially busy, when it's time to negotiate the city budget. "You're getting phone calls at 11:00 p.m. from people wanting to have questions answered."
Compare Fresno's Council, to Clovis.
City Council members in Clovis earn $1,100 a month. But with other benefits and stipends, that number jumps to a range of $22,285 to $35,136.
Porterville City Council members earn even less.
They receive a $20 stipend a meeting.
But our investigation didn't just focus on cities.
We also looked at the County levels. Would you believe you'll find people who earn more-- working for the county?
The highest earning county employee in the Central Valley is a doctor in Merced County.
Dr. Isabel Manuel is a Psychologist with Merced County Mental Health Services.
The county reported to Transparent California that it paid her $466,000 in 2013 in base salary and benefits.
The person with the highest cost of employment in Fresno County also works in Mental Health.
Dr. Joseph Alimasuya had a cost of employment of more than $418,000 in 2013.
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims had the fifth-highest cost of employment in Fresno County in 2013.
She was paid $302,646 in salary and benefits.
To access the State Controller's Office database, click here.
To access Transparent California's database, click here.