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Yesterday, my colleague Liam Dillon reported that four senior city employees recently received pay increases, despite a city-imposed salary freeze.

One question remained unanswered in Dillon’s story: Are senior managers, who aren’t represented by unions, affected by Proposition B, which passed in June and recommends a freeze on pensionable pay for city workers until 2018?

The answer is yes.

The recommended pay freeze applies just as much to the non-union managers like the four individuals given pay increases recently as it does to rank-and-file city employees, concludes a legal opinion provided to the city by the law firm Burke, Williams & Sorensen. (The opinion was provided by an outside law firm, rather than the City Attorney’s Office, because the city attorney has a conflict of interest in the issue.)

The memo, which the Mayor’s Office provided to Voice of San Diego Friday, goes into a lot of detail about why Proposition B applies. Here’s a snippet:

“[W]e observe that construing Charter Section 70.2 to exempt some of the highest paid employees and officers while simultaneously imposing financial burdens on workers who are represented by recognized employee organizations would create a seemingly invidious legislative distinction without any apparent rational bias.”

The gist of the opinion is that the legislation consistently refers to “city employees and officials” and makes no distinction between unionized and non-unionized employees.

A spokesman for City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the City Attorney’s Office will be looking into the raises.

Three of the four city employees who received raises work under the purview of Mayor Jerry Sanders. Of those three, two of the managers, Julio Canizal and Irena Kumitz, received raises because they were promoted, said mayoral spokesman Darren Pudgil.

Canizal and Kumitz are financial management directors who took on the workload of a third employee who left their department, Pudgil said. They received new job titles and new job descriptions as a result, Pudgil said, which is why they got commensurate pay raises.

The third employee under the mayor’s command to receive a raise, Real Estate Assets Department head Jim Barwick, didn’t get a promotion, Pudgil said. City Chief Operating Officer Jay Goldstone will be looking into that pay increase and will comment on it next week, he said.

According to the Mayor’s Office, Barwick’s raise kicked in Sept. 15; Canizal’s and Kumitz’s kicked in Oct. 15. The legal opinion was sent to Goldstone on Sept. 11.

The fourth city employee to get a raise, city Personnel Director Hadi Dehghani, didn’t respond to a call for comment. Deghani received a pay raise from the city’s Civil Service Commission about a week before the legal opinion was issued.

We’ll have more on this as we learn more about it.

Will Carless is an investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego currently focused on local education. You can reach him at will.carless@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5670.

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Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

Will Carless

Will Carless was formerly the head of investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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