Murrieta’s Measure E Defiance Has Some People Stark Raving Mad

Supporters of a voter-approved initiative that capped compensation for city administrators in Murrieta in 2010 are furious over the city’s decision to routinely ignore the limits in favor of more competitive salaries. Under Measure E, salaries for Murrieta's chief administrative officials (excluding police and other emergency public safety officials) are not to exceed 2.5 times the median household income. It was approved by 66 percent of voters. Since its passage, however, Murrieta has consistently paid its administrators more.  

Incoming city manager Kim Summers is the latest to benefit from the city’s resistance to Measure E. She would earn $225,248 under her proposed contract compared to the $140,000 to $150,000 she would have been taking home under its guidelines.

“These guys are ignoring the law,” said Bob Kowell, who campaigned for Measure E. He said he’s “disgusted about everything, except for Trump doing some good things.”

Kowell sees it as yet more evidence of government hubris and dysfunction in California. When the city first adopted a law allowing it to flout Measure E’s cap, Kowell threatened to sue, but he never did follow through because he says he and his supporters can’t afford it.

Mayor Pro Tem Jonathan Ingram has defended the city’s position.

“The way it works with a city manager is you get what you pay for.”

The city’s attorneys have also argued that Measure E was not allowed under California law, which allows city councils to set the pay of the city manager. When hiring Summers, Ingram adds, they scrutinized salary data from comparable cities and determined that the figure was fair.

But that’s not a viable excuse, says Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal.

“The law is the law,” he said. “Go back to the voters. That’s called democracy.”


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