Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009 | City Councilmember Carl DeMaio’s City Employee Compensation Analysis is at best a product of shoddy research. At worst, it’s a willful deception to cultivate the public’s resentment of those who serve them. After 28-years of service, I am a reluctant new member of DeMaio’s so-called “$100,000 Club.” Where’s my smoking jacket and snifter of brandy?

Base salary for a fire captain is $7158/month or $85,896/year. I’ve spoken to Carl about his figures, but I got the impression that he didn’t want to hear it. There are additions to base salary for technical specialties and hazardous duties. Even with all those, I couldn’t torture Carl’s figures into adding up to the $121,000 base-pay he cites for one Captain (Maybe that Captain will call me after reading this).

1) Carl fails to mention that firefighters are required to participate in overtime. If we all refused to participate, that would be an illegal job action. Even so, some mornings, we are not allowed to go home until enough staff can be found and ordered to fill vacancies. With few exceptions, we are not allowed to refuse this order. The alternative? The city would have to hire permanent staff for temporary openings; more wasteful than paying overtime.

2) Much of the overtime occurs at the request of state and federal agencies. We respond to wildfires throughout the state and disasters, natural or manmade, all over the country (Oklahoma City, 9/11, Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricane Katrina). Sometimes these assignments mean months away from home. This is overtime that costs San Diego taxpayers nothing and actually profits the city; read on.

3) The city generates revenue by sourcing highly-skilled firefighters out to state and federal agencies. The city charges the requesting agencies not only for the firefighters’ overtime, but the overtime of their replacements plus significant administrative fees that go directly into the general fund.

From a personal standpoint: After a few years of no raises, mounting family expenses and the loss of my wife’s income, I turned to overtime. The mayor was exhorting us to work overtime in lieu of raises. I went a little over $100,000 in gross salary for the first time in 28 years. I earned the bulk of that overtime because I was sent out to fires throughout California for 16 days last July. It was tough work. I missed my family terribly, but I did it to fulfill my responsibilities to people I don’t know and to my own family. I’m proud of what we accomplished out there. I’m glad my crew and I weren’t injured much. I earned overtime and the city profited by sending us. All in all though, I would’ve preferred being home.

DeMaio neglects some facts and exaggerates others. He never says why $100,000 is too much; nor does he offer any solutions. This is the hallmark of someone who is grandstanding and agitating. I don’t expect that any minds are changed by my words, but I hope those minds are now more informed and honest in their positions. There’s more to the picture than Carl DeMaio paints.

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