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Start the Presses: Bonus time

December 18, 2010|By Dan Evans

I'm amazed, frankly. City scandals from Bell to Vernon abound. The city of Burbank itself faces seemingly endless police litigation and questions about nepotism within every one of its departments.

Despite all this, the good people inside that beautiful art deco building on Olive Avenue remain as tone-deaf as the brightly decorated light standards outside.

In their latest display of low-wattage, City Hall officials are refusing to release information regarding bonuses — or "pay for performance," as the city attorney's office prefers it be termed. Whatever it's called, this action is illegal, and this paper will be enforcing its rights. First, though, a little background.


On Dec. 1, reporter Gretchen Meier sent a request to the city asking that it release information on who has received a bonus between 1999 and 2010, and how much each individual received. Prompting this request was a release of similar information by the city of Glendale, which posted the data on its website.

Instead of providing the name, title and amount of each public employee receiving payouts, Burbank officials instead decided to provide information only from the 2009-10 fiscal year, broken down solely by employee group. Even this limited data was fascinating: Employees received $1 million in completely discretionary pay that year, despite the fact that the city faced a multimillion-dollar budget gap.

Let me repeat: City workers received extra money despite the fact that the city itself faced severe budget issues.

According to the city, employees must receive an overall rating of "exceptional" to qualify for a merit-based bonus. Not all Burbank employees are eligible. Police officers and firefighters, for example, cannot receive such payments.

In all, Burbank employs about 1,500 people. Of those, 874 were eligible to receive a bonus in 2009-10. Of those, 445, or just over 50%, received the payout.

Really? More than half of those eligible workers were not poor, average or even good? Half were exceptional? Does this make any sense to anyone?

In October, the chairman of the Civil Service Board told the City Council that every Burbank department has individuals related to one another. This is troubling.

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