The Lookout

Private-sector salary for public employee

The Lookout

Working for the public good has also worked well for one California county administrator’s bank account.

According to reports by several newspapers, Alameda County, in the San Francisco Bay Area, is paying its County Administrator Susan Muranishi, north of $400,000—for life. This includes a generous base salary of $301,000, plus taxpayer-funded deferred pension plans paid for by the county.

The pension accounts are set by a formula that multiplies years of service by 2 to 3 percent of the top salary to calculate the benefit, the San Jose Mercury News reports. With 38 years of service under her belt, the top Alameda official, along with two top county executives, benefit lavishly.

The publication notes, “Muranishi, for example, was the highest-paid county administrator in the Bay Area, with $422,268 in salary last year. In addition, she received $137,196 toward her pension and another $46,500 dumped into a pair of deferred compensation accounts.” Most pension plans require the employee to pay in—but not in this case.

Even without the extra pension plans, Muranishi’s base salary alone stands out. Her salary is more than the rate for similar positions in San Francisco ($153,000), Chicago ($128,000) and New York City ($152,000).

President Barack Obama’s base salary, by the way, is $400,000.

Pensions are determined by the board of supervisors, but officials sign up for the special accounts.

A column from the San Francisco Chronicle asserts that Muranishi’s salary includes “$24,000, plus change, in ‘equity pay’ to guarantee that she makes at least 10 percent more than anyone else in the county. About $54,000 a year in ‘longevity’ pay for having stayed with the county for more than 30 years; an annual performance bonus of $24,000; and another $9,000 a year for serving on the county’s three-member Surplus Property Authority, an ad hoc committee of the Board of Supervisors that oversees the sale of excess land.” She also gets a $8,292 yearly car allowance.

It's not bad, considering that Alameda County is facing budget deficits and residents have a per capita income of $34,937, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, a government watchdog group, told the Mercury News the compensation plan is too much. "It borders on looting the public treasury. They don't look at what they do as public service. They look at it as an opportunity for self-enrichment. This really hits the outrage factor."

Outrage was evident on Twitter. One commenter, Du Crusoe ‏@DuCrusoe, posted, "Alameda Co CA Administrator Susan Muranishi retires with wage of $423,664 a year = $35,500mo.?!?! ~~ disabled US vet gets $2,769.mo." Another commenter, dr maxcua ‏@MaxCUA, wrote, "#alameda county rewards "administrator" THIEF →susan muranishi $400k…for life + $300k sal." And Ryan Winkler ‏@Ryan_Winkler posted, "Alameda Cnty Admin Susan Muranishi will receive a pension of $423,664 a year. In WI, that was a scandal."

The state recently weathered a scandal in the low-income town of Bell (pop. 37,000) in Southern California. Bell was exposed by the Los Angeles Times as paying its city manager close to $800,000 a year—twice the salary of the Los Angeles police chief and the New York City police commissioner.

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