A new bill sponsored by 38th District Assemblyman Cameron Smyth and signed by Governor Jerry Brown yesterday will shed light on how much money California city council members will be making in stipends.
Council members in the City of Bell have been charged with misappropriation of funds for padding their salaries up to $100,000 a year by serving on boards and commissions that met for only a few minutes or were held concurrently with council meetings.
“They would meet just long enough to call the meeting to order and to approve the minutes of the previous meeting and gavel down and move on to the next one. So, clearly they weren’t doing any business other than just meeting to collect their paycheck,” Smyth said.
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The new bill would require a legislative body to verbally announce the amount of compensation or stipend each member will be receiving as a result of convening a simultaneous or subsequent legislative body.
Smyth says the bill won’t prevent what happened to Bell from ever happening again, but ensures the public will know what their City Council is doing.
“The public would be aware an unscrupulous council would be meeting for 30 seconds for $500 and taking no business,” said Smyth.
Smyth, who served on the Santa Clarita City Council from 2000-2006, said he was not paid anything additional by serving on additional committees, agencies or commissions.
“Our city councilmembers do not receive extra stipends or extra payment to attend meetings beyond their monthly amount; e.g.: there is no extra amount paid to them for meetings they attend,” said Gail Ortiz, Communications Manager for the City of Santa Clarita.
According to the city, Councilmembers may collect stipends from outside agencies where they may serve as a liaison or member, such as the County Sanitation District, MTA and Vector Control. Since they aren’t paid by the city, Ortiz couldn’t address whether or not they receive stipends.
The city says they support openness and transparency in local government. A sentiment Smyth would agree with.
“We’re hoping that just by shedding more light and requiring more public disclosure it helps keep the public informed so they can administer their elected officials and keep their eye on their elected officials,” Smyth said.
Salaries and benefits for Santa Clarita City Councilmembers can be found by clicking here.
In June, Councilmembers voted themselves a pay increase of 10% for the next term. The complete story can be found here.