Ballot Measure in Brea Targets City Manager’s Salary and Upper Management; Mayor Opposes

Voters in the city of Brea will face an initiative this November that would restrict the salaries of upper management. Measure T states that the city manager, city administrative officials, department directors, and hourly contract labor cannot receive compensation more than two times Brea's median household income. This means pay would not be able to exceed around $150,000. Since the measure seems to target the salary of the city manager in particular, it’s rather curious that a major supporter of the measure is a former contractor who was fired by the city manager.

In arguments against Measure T, Mayor Don Schweitzer and Mayor Pro Tem Brett Murdock state that using an arbitrary cap on compensation for upper management will prevent the council from offering competitive pay to attract top-level talent. The city officials note: “The City of Brea is a 100 million dollar corporation. Decisions made at the executive level have daily ramifications of tens of thousands of dollars. We need the skills, experience, and creativity of cutting-edge leaders.”

Critics also point out that public safety employees would be excluded from the salary cap, which means their compensation could be higher than the management employees who supervise them. In an editorial against the measure, the OC Register offers the following criticism:

“That the contractor is using Measure T to settle a score with the city manager is evidenced by the fact that the measure exempts Brea's public safety personnel, including fire, police and emergency services. So while the city's police chief and fire chief collect salaries and benefits comparable to the city manager, only the city manager is targeted for a cut. We might welcome moves to curb the pay of municipal employees, but they should be applied even-handedly to include all employees, including those in public safety.”

Some of the motivation behind the measure likely stems from the council’s vote to increase its benefit package in June 2011---a decision that was ultimately reversed. A website called “Save Brea,” which supports the measure, points to the benefits vote as a reason that voters should support Measure T.

You can read arguments in favor and against the Accountability Act, Measure T, here.

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