Tag: Haddon Libby

Disclosure, With A Kicker

The system is broke, no doubt about it. Many of the OWS crowd believe that it is broke beyond repair. I think it is repairable, nothing that some honesty and integrity in our leaders would not fix. But here’s the rub, much like Abraham bargaining with God over the fate of Sodom, where finding only 10 righteous men would have saved the city, finding leaders, anywhere with honor and integrity is proving difficult.

We all remember the Bell, Ca. scandal, where the mayor, city manager, and several city council members were all arrested for corruption, having inflated salaries, 4-5 times what would be considered normal for that job. But this isn’t like robbing a bank, they got their money semi legally (hence, the broken system), you can bet their defense will be as simple as this, they negotiated in good faith with the city to obtain those salaries, nobody put a gun to the heads of the city officials that accepted their contracts, the city was willing to get robbed and handed over the money month after month.

Shortly after the Bell scandal California controller John Chiang decided he would post all public employee salaries on his website, so now if you are a public employee anywhere in California, citizens have instant access to what you are making, about damn time.

But just because that information is available does not mean that some public employees want it disclosed, and some will even go extra ordinary lengths to keep their gravy train under wraps, including threatening those that ask the ridiculous, a little transparency wrt their employees:

It goes like this: Libby questioned the high salary and benefits of the city manager in the small Riverside County town of Indian Wells and was subsequently fired by his private employer after the city manager complained about him. Libby needed to learn “that such public discourse comes at a price,” the city manager wrote in a letter to Libby’s employer.

The price Libby paid was to lose his job as a bank vice president.

When Libby started poking around Indian Wells, population 5,000, in August, the city manager, Greg Johnson — who has since resigned — quickly went on the offensive. How dare Libby inquire about Johnson’s $283,000 salary and lucrative benefits, which that included free carwashes and something called “VIP” medical treatment at a hospital should he need a doctor.

Haddon Libby is a guy just like all of us, he lives within the system, takes pride in his community, and cared about that community. Whatever the impetus was for him poking around to see what his city officials were making (all citizens should be as curious) once he found out it became instantly apparent that the city could not afford such a lavish salary with benefits, many of those benefits are enumerated in the article.

When Libby filed a Public Records Act request with the city for more information, Johnson replied to it, copying Libby’s boss at First Foundation Bank, calling the $8 million estimate a lie and saying, “I guess we have a problem.”

Then, according to his lawsuit, Libby’s boss told him to “tread carefully” and that he would get fired if he exercised his right to sue the city for more information about Johnson or even just met with the manger.

The City Manager is the CEO of the city, he is not elected like the mayor, he has to have the education and training to do the job, he is the most powerful city official. And you would be surprised how much city managers get paid, I was. But salaries for this position do vary widely, usually commiserate with the size (population) of the city. Indian Wells, population 5000, should fall within the low end of the spectrum, it doesn’t. My little town, pop. around 25,000, pays it’s CM 237K (it’s the Bay Area, figures). The low end of most Ca. cities is around 180K with what Johnson was making as the Cadillac plan.

The amount in of itself is not that outrageous, it is in the ball park of other cities, but clearly, Johnson knew that there were too many cookies in his hand and was willing to do whatever it took to keep the information private.

Libby persevered (good for him) and was subsequently fired. The good news is that Johnson resigned (scumbag) and Libby is suing both the city and his employer for wrongful termination. Here is hoping he wins a boatload of money in judgment.

But governmental corruption is like cockroaches, for everyone one you see, there is a half a dozen hiding behind the refrigerator. This stuff goes on all the time and there are probably hundreds of Johnson’s out there, and we can’t count on Haddon Libby to visit every city in America spotlighting government malfeasance for us, we have to do this ourselves.

The smaller the government, the more transparent it is, that is why the Tea Party has it right, reducing the size of government and limit their power to only what they need to do their job, and most of the OWS is not. Destroying capitalism, or perversely perverting it (forgiving your debt to the detriment of the loaner) is not the way to go.