Part 2: New City Hall Whistleblower ‘Bear’calls for lower pay increased transparency

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A recent whistleblower in City Hall — writing here as “Leo Bear Mahar” — issues several calls for action to improve the function of city government. 

1. Demand Transparency: Hold Public City Manager Review

In light of recent revelations about potential misconduct within City Hall, community members deserve a transparent evaluation of the City Manager’s performance. WEHOonline articles raise serious concerns about hiring practices, including favoritism toward friends and directors, and multiple charges of discrimination. 

Additionally, a public review should examine the City Manager’s oversight of director hiring throughout their tenure. These are not matters to be decided behind closed doors. Our elected officials, the City Council, must hold a public review of the City Manager to ensure accountability and restore public trust in our local government.

The City Manager’s contract stipulates that the City Council will conduct an annual review of the City Manger between August and October.  In a prior year this was public and in other cities this is commonly public. In West Hollywood, like many things, it is behind closed doors. 

2. Champion Our Staff: Create a Director Advocate Position

Inspired by the US Coast Guard’s Command Master Chief role, the City of West Hollywood should consider creating a Director Advocate position. This individual would serve as a champion for our dedicated staff, fostering a more collaborative and accountable work environment. Selected by staff, for staff, this Director would provide accountability and transparency across the ranks. This position could also relieve the Human Resources Manager of holding the conflicting role of ADA Coordinator / Compliance Officer, providing a more checks and balance system.

 * Selected for a three-year term by their peers, the Director Advocate would provide a strong executive management voice for staff on matters like workload, professional development, and morale.

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 * They would bring staff concerns directly to the City Manager and Directors, ensuring their voices are heard and addressed in leadership decisions.

 * Limiting the term to three years, with the Director Advocate returning to their previous role, ensures a fresh perspective and prevents stagnation.

This initiative would empower staff, improve communication, and create a more positive work environment, ultimately leading to a stronger and more responsive city government.

3. Rethink Salaries, Invest in Our Community

Recent WEHOonline articles revealed concerning compensation packages for City Hall leadership, with the City Manager reportedly earning over $476,414 and many directors exceeding $300,000 annually. While dedicated public servants on our boards and council make a pittance – $75 monthly for board members and around $1,000 for council members – these exorbitant salaries at the top raise serious questions about spending priorities.

A comparison of pay in neighboring cities looking at three example positions of City Manager, Division Manager, and Associate Planner, absent of benefits, is shown below. 
City  City Manager  Division Manager Associate Planner 
Santa Monica 

$340,000    

$185,000 $110,000
Beverly Hills  $380,000 $170,000 $110,000
Culver City  $290,000 $140,000 $107,000
Santa Barbara  $340,000 $170,000 $114,000
West Hollywood  $360,000 $230,000 $145,000

The City of West Hollywood has under 300 staff.  Each of the other cities shown has anywhere from three to nearly 10 times the number of staff to manage as West Hollywood.  For example, the City of Santa Monica has over 2,000 employees and Culver City has around 800.   

The cities of Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Culver City, and Santa Barbara each have a police department, fire department, public works (other than contracts), and entire school districts. The City of West Hollywood contracts for nearly every service in the City and relies on Los Angeles County for police, fire, and basic infrastructure services.  

Division Managers in West Hollywood oversee anywhere from just two to about 15 staff.  These staff mostly oversee outside contractors. Each Director oversees a whopping three Division Managers, overseeing staff, overseeing contractors.  

And then there is the top. High on the third floor the City Manager oversees less than 10 directors. To help him out there is a position called “Assistant to the City Manager”.  That’s not Assistant City Manager …. No, this position was recently changed to a full Division Manger with staff dedicated to helping the City Manager. 

More help for managing the handful of directors comes in two of the highest paid positions – Assistant City Manager and Deputy City Manager. And let’s not forget the former Assistant City Manager whom the Administrative Director brought back as a high paid consultant to help the City Manager.  

A Call for Smarter Investments:

We urge the City Council to implement a tiered salary reduction plan for high-earners:

 * Reduce salaries exceeding $250,000 (excluding benefits) by 30%.

 * Reduce salaries exceeding $150,000 (excluding benefits) by 20%.

 * Reduce salaries between $125,000 and $150,000 (excluding benefits) by 10%.

 * Salaries below $125,000 will remain unchanged.

The salary adjustments would provide millions of dollars in annual savings that can be strategically reinvested in our community.  We can:

 * Hire additional working level staff to better address resident needs and support essential services. 

 * Create the Director Advocate position to champion our dedicated staff and foster a more collaborative work environment.

 * Consider reasonable salary adjustments for boards, commissioners, and council members to better reflect their commitment and the time they dedicate to serving our city.

This plan prioritizes fiscal responsibility while ensuring we have the resources to effectively serve West Hollywood. Let’s advocate for a fairer compensation structure that invests in our people, eliminates people coming to West Hollywood to work solely because of the money, and instead brings in those who desire to be ethical civil servants. This overall strengthens our community inside and outside of City Hall.  

4. Hold City Leaders Accountable: Launch Rate My City Management!

Introducing Rate My City Management, a revolutionary platform inspired by Rate My Professor!  This innovative website empowers you, residents, staff, and the business community of West Hollywood, to anonymously rate and review your city’s leadership.

Here’s How it Works:

 * Staff: Provide honest feedback on your managers, directors, City Manager, and City Council. Rate their communication, leadership style, effectiveness, and fairness.

 * Residents & Businesses: Share your experiences interacting with city management.  Evaluate their responsiveness, transparency, and how well they address your concerns.

Transparency for a Better West Hollywood:

Rate My City Management fosters transparency and accountability within our local government. Your valuable insights will help build a stronger and more responsive West Hollywood for everyone.

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About Leo Bear Mahan
Leo Bear Mahar is the pen name of a West Hollywood City Hall staff member.

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CHLOE ROSS
CHLOE ROSS
20 days ago

After reading the other city budgets one thing stood out. Each of these cities is a “Real City”. They do not outsource and contract things that need to be in the direct eye/purview of OUR city government. Outsiders make decisions and oversee issues that do not concern them directly. We are a revenue source for contractors. Despite our self-image as the “Little City Could and Does”…we are in the hands of strangers who see us as clients. The illusion that we a tight little family of concerned representatives is just that. An illusion. Wouldn’t it make more sense to draw… Read more »

Not At Arms Length
Not At Arms Length
19 days ago
Reply to  CHLOE ROSS

Have maintained that for years. WeHo pays top dollar for arms length disassociated contractors and staff that view the city from the four corners of their computers. They never have an authentic experience with and within the city. A high priced exercise of pinning the tail on the donkey.🫏

Jimmy
Jimmy
21 days ago

This made me laugh. Out loud. Hysterically. Nobody will ever have a salary reduction. Starting salaries should be lower. That would prevent the exorbitant salaries. Some of us appointed officials work very hard. Many are extremely dedicated. Raising appointed officials to 125.00, not 100 is a no Brainer. It is well earned and well deserved.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
21 days ago
Reply to  Jimmy

The public is often unaware of the huge amounts of time Commissioners have to devote to their duties, particularly members of the Human Services Commission and Planning Commission. A raise is justified but we need to keep it reasonable so these positions remain about public service rather than being a reward for political service.

WeHo Mary!
WeHo Mary!
20 days ago
Reply to  Jimmy

Appointed officials should get even less, especially when you look at the entire compensation package. Most of you are using these positions as springboards into politics, or into anything that isn’t a real job.

Yes
Yes
21 days ago

Brilliant idea! The disconnect between the sickeningly overpaid staff at city hall and the taxpayers they are ripping off has gone on for way too long.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
21 days ago

For well over a decade, City Hall has been way top heavy with management. Many jobs were created to reward favored and loyal staff members who proved to the City Manager to be “team members”. While many of the promotions were deserved, rather than give raises, new management positions were created creating “salary inflation”. This is going to be a real problem once City revenues level off and we get hit with huge pension costs. The fact that management reviews are held in secret is simply a reflection of the malaise that besets City Hall. While we have a lot… Read more »

CHLOE ROSS
CHLOE ROSS
20 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Bravo Steve. We said.

EM
EM
19 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

They don’t even KNOW their own policies! We had a hearing about ADUs and parking and no one knew any of the recent terms (or lack thereof that had been put in place!). The writer that took down the City of Bell needs to look into this scam.

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