MOORLACH UPDATE — Voice of OC — August 26, 2010

Now that the OCTA has posted its salary information online, including that of Board members, some interesting data is revealed.  The Voice of OC provides its perspective below.

The maximum monthly stipend an OCTA Board member can earn is $500, or a total of five meetings at $100 each.  You can attend more than five meetings, but you’ll only be paid for a maximum of five.  In 2009 I attended the twice-monthly Board and Finance and Administrative Committee meetings.  Consequently, I did not reach the $6,000 per year limit.

In 2009, I also enrolled in OCTA’s vision service insurance plan and I pay a portion of the premium every month, at the same 15 percent rate paid by OCTA employees.

With every topic, there is balance.  I am enjoying a detour from my planned career as a partner at a local accountancy firm.  I am still responsible for supporting my wife and children.  Consequently, I did select to participate in this particular insurance plan.  It doesn’t make up for the lost opportunity costs of what I would be earning in my prior vocation, but I made the decision to serve in the public sector.  I believe that you should not muzzle the ox.  I am making significant financial sacrifices, but public service doesn’t mean that I should serve for free and financially wipe out my family.  Balance.

Santa Ana Mayor Might Be Double-Dipping On Health Insurance

At a time when many in Orange County are without health insurance, Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido appears to be double covered, once by the city and again as a director for the Orange County Transportation Authority.

OCTA records and interviews with senior-level Santa Ana employees show that taxpayers contribute a total of about $33,000 to Pulido’s health care each year. Santa Ana contributes about $15,000 a year to the mayor’s health and dental coverage, while OCTA puts in about $18,000 annually, records reviewed by staffers reflect.

Such double coverage violates OCTA policy. The agency requires its 18 directors to reimburse the authority for health benefits if they are also covered by another agency, said OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik.

Records posted by OCTA online for 2009 don’t show a reimbursement by Pulido, who was first elected to the Santa Ana council in 1986 and has served as mayor since 1994.

He has not returned a reporter’s calls and emails seeking to clarify his health benefits. An executive assistant for City Manager Dave Ream did respond via email, saying that the mayor "does not utilize the city’s benefit program, which is available to all City Council members."

But two other senior city employees independently checked the official records and said Pulido currently is enrolled in the city health plan. Santa Ana, according to one of those officials, contributes $14,195 a year to Pulido’s health insurance and $1,080 to his dental coverage.

Information about the mayor and council members’ salaries and benefits is scheduled to be posted to the Santa Ana website today.

As a Transportation Authority director, Pulido, mayor of Orange County’s largest city, collected a total of about $22,000 in per diem and health benefits last year, the most of any of the 18 directors.

According to the list, Pulido, in 2009, was paid $4,700 in per diem. Each director is allowed to receive $100 per official meeting that he or she attends, up to a maximum of $500 a month or $6,000 a year. OCTA paid $17,728 in health benefits for him and he contributed $3,128.

Besides Pulido, other board members who belong to the health plan are Orange Mayor Carolyn V. Cavecche, Lake Forest Mayor Pro Tem Richard Dixon and the two public members, Peter Buffa and Greg Winterbottom.

Cavecche was the second-highest compensated OCTA director, receiving $6,000 in per diem plus $15,989 in health plan coverage for a total of $21,989. Buffa, a documentary film producer, was third with health benefit payments of $13,133 and a $6,000 per diem for a total of $19,133.

Two others, Supervisor John Moorlach and Garden Grove Mayor William Dalton apparently participate in a small part of the plan, which provides eye or dental coverage, in addition to general health care. OCTA paid $254 for Moorlach in 2009 and $134 for Dalton.

Board spokesman Zlotnik said board members and Transportation Authority employees pay a portion of their health care costs, so the amount paid by the district can vary, depending on whether family members are included in the plans.

Cavecche has indicated she’s exploring leaving the OCTA plan in favor of another form of coverage, Zlotnik said. Orange City Attorney David DeBerry said all Orange council members are eligible for the same benefits as the city’s top employees.

That includes $1,475 a month that can be used to participate in a "section 125" cafeteria plan that covers health insurance for those who need it or other IRS-approved items, like adoption assistance or dependent care assistance.

According to the Transportation Authority’s online list, in 2009 most directors received at least $4,700 in per diem and $96 for life insurance coverage.

Many cities began putting compensation information on their websites in the wake of the Bell salary scandal, where the ex-city manager took home a nearly $800,000 annual paycheck. But OCTA is one of the few county-level government agencies to make its information available online.

Pay and benefits of top executives and board members is an ordinary public record that anyone can go to the agency’s offices during business hours and look at for free or, for a fee, request a copy.

Last week, Voice of OC reported that Denis Bilodeau, a member of the Orange County Water District board billed the water agency nearly $3,500 for meetings he either didn’t attend or that didn’t occur, according to official Water District records.

Please contact Tracy Wood directly at twood@voiceofoc.org, and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/tracy111. And add your voice with a letter to the editor.

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

August 28

1995

The Orange County Business Journal maintained a weekly section, titled “Executive Summary,” that was compiled by David E. Whiteside and Rick Reiff.  It almost always started with “The Bankruptcy.”  This week’s edition even concluded with a descriptive subtitle regarding the number of legal matters at the time.

                Investigations, litigation

Intensifying pressure on Auditor Steve Lewis, Treasurer John Moorlach, ex-CEO William Popejoy and the supervisors agreed to give prosecutors written and taped correspondence between county officers and their civil lawyers.  Memos obtained by the OC Register showed Lewis repeatedly recalculated upward the size of the tax-exempt bonds the county could issue.  Attorneys for indicted ex-assistant treasurer Matt Raabe said they will seek financial records of grand jury members; they contend since everyone in OC was hurt by the bankruptcy, the trial should be moved or the indictments tossed out.  Supervisor Roger Stanton said he may sue former county CEO William Popejoy for slander for accusing him of undermining the county’s negotiations with Merrill Lynch.

2000

Danette Goulet of the Daily Pilot wrote on the school district’s bond oversight committee in “District needs applicants for bond committee – Newport-Mesa Unified groups will oversee the spending of $163 million.”  I had the privilege of selecting one member as my representative.  Here is the middle portion of the article:

            The Newport-Mesa Unified school board established the purpose, criteria, composition and operations of a two-tiered oversight system.

There will be a 29-member district oversight committee and committees of seven to 11 members at each school.

These groups will ensure that the funds from the school bond are spent according to the facility plan released in January.

In February, the district sent out 33,000 letters with return cards to find Newport-Mesa residents interested in serving on these committees.

The district received 325 responses. It then sent applications to those people, said Mike Fine, assistant superintendent of business services.

"Anyone can fill out an application; those 325 were just the ones we had in our database," Fine said.

Of those 325, about 30 to 35 residents have returned the applications already.

Because applicants for most of the positions on the district-level committee must meet certain criteria, such as being an architect or a representative of the Orange County Taxpayers Assn., the district’s next step is to send those applications to the various associations.

For instance, Fine said, Orange County Treasurer John Moorlach would choose which candidate would serve among those who checked Orange County Taxpayers Assn.

If all goes according to plan, Fine said, the committee selection process should be completed by the end of September or the beginning of October. That means the district oversight committee could begin meeting as early as October.

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