WeHo City Council Gives Itself a 50% Raise

West Hollywood City Councilmembers (left to right) Lauren Meister ($28,287 with benefits in 2017), Lindsey Horvath ($30,242), John Heilman ($29,242), John D'Amico ($36,422)and John Duran ($33,823) (Photo by Jon Viscott)
West Hollywood City Councilmembers (left to right) Lauren Meister ($28,287 with benefits in 2017), Lindsey Horvath ($30,242), John Heilman ($29,242), John D’Amico ($36,422) and John Duran ($33,823) (Photo by Jon Viscott)

The West Hollywood City Council voted last night to increase its compensation by 50 percent, making its members the most highly paid among those of adjacent small cities. The decision came in a four-to-one vote, with Mayor Lindsey Horvath abstaining, a move that Councilmember John D’Amico, in an angry outburst, called “chicken shit.” D’Amico later apologized for that remark.

The decision will boost the part-time council members’ monthly compensation from $825 to $1,237. When the $250 monthly stipend for telephone, travel and office expenses is added in, the annual pay for the part-time job is $17,844 a year.

That works out to annual compensation per resident of 47 cents. Council members in adjacent Beverly Hills, which has roughly the same population as West Hollywood, are paid 27 cents per resident. Council members in Santa Monica are paid 15 cents and those in Glendale are paid nine cents.

When combined with the city’s generous health benefits and pension plan, Councilmember D’Amico will make $36,433 for the part-time job. Horvath will make $30,242 and Lauren Meister will make $28,287. Councilmember John Duran, who is up for re-election in 2017, will receive $33,823 in pay and benefits if he is re-elected. Councilmember John Heilman, also up for re-election, will receive $29,242.

The raise, which will take effect after the March 2017 election, will be the Council’s first in 10 years. Under state law, city councils in cities organized under state law, as is West Hollywood, may give themselves a five percent annual raise. The last time West Hollywood’s City Council had a raise was in 2007.

The Council instructed the city’s staff to return with a formal proposal for the pay hike that also would include an increase in compensation for city board members, who currently receive $50 per meeting, with most of them meeting monthly. Councilmember Heilman asked that the formal proposal include a proposal for a review of council member compensation when it also reviews negotiated contracts with the city’s various unions.

While the pay raise was supported by some residents attending Monday night’s council meeting, even its supporters were unhappy that the proposal had been put on the Council’s consent agenda. That part of the City Council agenda includes several dozen items that aren’t deemed worthy of public discussion or debate and are passed unanimously by the Council in a single vote. Because of publicity about the proposed raise, the Council agreed Monday night to discuss the matter in public and remove it from the consent agenda.

Horvath said she was abstaining from the vote because she wasn’t comfortable voting to give herself a raise. She said that she was in basic agreement with the proposal but thought it should have been initiated by the public.

That prompted the angry remark from D’Amico. “That is chicken shit. I’m not doing that,” he said, meaning he would not even vote on the item given the position Horvath was taking. Later he apologized. “It was not appropriate of me to use that language,” he told Horvath. “But the sentiment that somehow the four of us are making a mistake, I’m not comfortable with that. Horvath replied that she was not suggesting anyone was making a mistake.

D’Amico’s attack on Horvath was the second such outburst from him at public council meetings in recent months. During a discussion on Oct. 5 of a proposal to encourage local building owners to upgrade their properties, D’Amico shocked the audience by saying “shame on you” to John Heilman. D’Amico was angry that Heilman hadn’t included one of his suggestions in the proposal and he said Heilman wasn’t interested in fixing low-cost housing. “That’s a shameful thing that you continue to do. And I have zero respect for you in this matter,” D’Amico said.

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Brian Holt
Brian Holt
5 years ago

COL for us civilian folk is 3%. And that’s what theirs should be. Got no problem with a raise. But 50% – for public service work – not down with that.

Woody McBreairty
Woody McBreairty
5 years ago

Kudos Steve.

Randy
Randy
5 years ago

Steve, I doubt that the councilmember’s raises (over several years) will come even close to the amount of money those lawsuits are going to cost the city, especially when we include any settlement amounts that will probably be agreed to.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
5 years ago

The Council members receive the same basic “pay” with a so-called technology allowance for phone and computers. The difference arises in the costs of medical insurance as some Council members may have domestic partners or higher insurance costs. The increase is certainly fair given the time most members of the Council devote to the job. My only concern is that why do we the tax payers have to foot the bill for the sexual harassment suit against John Duran or the new claim of “harassment’ by former Council deputy Fran Solomon who public stated she was “retiring” when in fact… Read more »

Mike H
Mike H
5 years ago

Just curious…. why do some council members make more than others?

Mark
Mark
5 years ago

The small increase is no big deal considering the amount of time they spend on city business. Some people just can’t help themselves from being petty and dramatic about it. The bigger concern are some of the votes on development which will have a serious long term impact on our city.

Brad
Brad
5 years ago

I find it hard to believe this is true in a city that prides itself on community service.

Rick Watts
Rick Watts
5 years ago

WOODY: OOPS! I meant “living” (I don’t get no lovin’ neither–fixed income or not!)

Paul
Paul
5 years ago

The whole things stinks of inside double dealing. Council approves the executive compensations, and generous salaries for the employees. Then staff put in an item for council raises. Deputies were making more than the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles. Paul Arevalo makes more than the President of the United States. This is not public service.. its public ripoff. And if John D’Amico wanted to bring daylight and transparency to the process he failed terribly. He was the biggest opponent of an open process and just wanted his raise because being a council member is more work then he… Read more »

Lynn
Lynn
5 years ago

The handling of this issue unfortunately had the appearance of impropriety which I sense may have contributed to Mayor Horvath’s discomfort. Had this been a noticed agenda item it would have provided for a more comprehensive discussion . Larry Block made a valiant effort to rescue this but time and lack of public participation were against the possibility. There is much more the public is entitled to know about the story and specifics about applesto apples comparisons w other municipalities. Whether or not council members appear to be deserving of a raise is the least important factor. One fact worth… Read more »

Rick Watts
Rick Watts
5 years ago

I do note, however, that the Council’s raise will not take effect until after the next election–which makes sense. The bigger issue was not so much whether a COLA was merited; but rather that a matter such as raising one’s own pay should always have been scheduled for debate and public input, in the spirit of open government. Giving the benefit of doubt though, my guess is that it ended up in Consent Calendar as a poorly-thought-through gaff by someone rather than any desire to be sneaky. As pointed out by others, it’s not like anyone’s getting rich from their… Read more »

Chris Sanger
Chris Sanger
5 years ago

Once again folks, remember that had Shrink won in June D’Amico would have been the de facto head of the council, and in the 2017 election, if either Heilman or Duran (should he run again) loses, the same result will ensue. It probably was the single biggest reason I supported Heilman this last time around. This city with D’Amico as the effective power center will be a disaster. My guess is he’d go after other appointed officials, from the City Manager on down, to make sure his allies take over.

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