San Diego mayor Bob Filner makes an annual salary of $100,464, and city council members are each paid $75,386. Their relatively modest remuneration is unlikely to increase soon, but municipal leaders have discovered another, not-often-discussed back-door way of padding their paychecks. As it turns out, once the officials take their seats on the council, they are each appointed by their fellow members to other taxpayer-financed boards and commissions, each of which carries a stipend for meeting attendance. With multiple appointments and regular meeting attendance, the extra taxpayer-provided cash can pile up in a hurry. The basic requirement to claim the money is showing up for the sessions.
Take, for example, Democrat David Alvarez, whose term on the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System board began January 1, 2013, according to an “agency report of public official appointments,” filed December 13 by city clerk Elizabeth Maland. It is estimated Alvarez could pick up an extra $3600 in 2013 for his service, the filing says, the same he was reported to have been eligible to receive in 2012. Board fees are $150 a meeting. (Most of the appointments include an alternate or two, so if one council member can’t make the meeting, another can step in and pick up the fee. Republican councilman Kevin Faulconer is Alvarez’s alternate on the transit board, the disclosure says. Aide Matt Awbrey said in a phone interview last week that Faulconer “has not and will not accept those fees.” Of the council offices on the clerk’s list returning our calls, Faulconer’s was the only one to say that. Other council members may do the same, but the compensation remains on the books to be used at will.)
Alvarez’s fellow Democrat Tony Young — who departed the council last year to take command of the local Red Cross — was a member of the executive committee of the transit system’s board in 2012. The spot paid between $1001 and $2000, at $150 per meeting, according to a December 12 disclosure filed by city clerk Maland. Democrat Todd Gloria was Young’s alternate. Besides cash from that role, Young was eligible for estimated remuneration of between $2001 and $3000 as a board member of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, which runs Lindbergh Field and oversees county airport planning. Board fees there are a hefty $200 a meeting, and no alternate is listed.
Ex-mayor Jerry Sanders was not above making himself available for a little extra public funding in the form of an estimated $3500 as a member of the board of the San Diego Association of Governments, otherwise known as SANDAG. Republican councilwoman Lorie Zapf was his first alternate, and Alvarez his second. Each meeting netted $150 for the official who attended. Along with Sanders, Young was also a member of the board, with fellow council Democrats Gloria first alternate and Sherri Lightner second. In addition, Sanders was on the association’s executive committee, making him eligible for a fee of $100 a meeting, for a total of between $1001 and $2000. Young was the mayor’s first alternate; Alvarez was second. In addition, Sanders was on the government association’s Regional Planning committee, where members are paid $100 a meeting, for an estimated total of between $1001 and $2000. Lightner was the alternate.
The taxpayer-funded association of governments conducts hundreds of meetings of its boards and advisory committees each year, offering a significant source of extra income to the elected officials. Democrat Alvarez was on the Borders committee, which pays up to $1000 a year at $100 a meeting, the disclosure says. Lightner was Alvarez’s alternate. Another Democrat, Marti Emerald, served on the association’s Public Safety committee, with total pay between $1001 and $2000. Democrat Todd Gloria was her alternate. Similarly, Lightner reportedly was eligible to get $100 per meeting as a member of the Energy Working Group, for an estimated grand total of between $1001 and $2000. Alvarez was her alternate. The GOP’s Laurie Zapf was a member of the Shoreline Preservation Working Group, where estimated annual fees totaled $1001 to $2001, according to Maland’s disclosure. Zapf’s alternate on that group was Faulconer. Over on SANDAG’s transportation committee, Gloria was spelled by first alternate Young; Zapf was second. Meeting stipends were $100, for a total of $1001 to $2000 over the course of 2012.
The dawn of 2013 has brought new appointments and shifts of assignments. Zapf will be on the transit system’s taxicab committee. Incoming councilman Mark Kersey has been named to the board of the San Dieguito River Valley Regional Open Space joint powers authority, which pays $100 a meeting. Alvarez takes over the Bayshore Bikeways seat, while Gloria gets Young’s old $150 per meeting spot on the transit board’s executive committee, with Emerald as backup.
UPDATE: (posted 1/18/2013)
SANDAG spokesperson Helen Gao has emailed to say that the state disclosure form filed by San Diego City Clerk Elizabeth Maland was mistaken when it reported that the agency's Energy Working Group and Shoreline Preservation Working Group each pays its members a $100 per meeting stipend.
"Unfortunately, the information contained in the form is erroneous. Elected officials who serve on working groups do not receive compensation. Only those who serve on the Board of Directors or Policy Advisory Committees do," writes Gao. "I contacted the City Clerk’s office, and they informed me that they will amend the form."