Despite years of trying to rein in costs due to public employee pensions, the city of Costa Mesa still doles out the hig hest average compensation package for full-time, year-round employees.
But the highest paid city worker in Orange County is Santa Ana's city manager.
And a Huntington Beach police officer and Anaheim city electrical inspector each made 58 percent more pay in overtime than their respective base salaries.
These were among the fascinating facts revealed Tuesday by Transparent California, the state's largest database of public sector compensation.
The numbers come from previously-unseen 2015 public employee compensation data—complete with names, pay, and benefits for 379 cities and 42 counties statewide.
A survey of 32 Orange County cities, accounting for 98 percent of the region's population, revealed that the average full-time city worker received $144,817 in total compensation last year.
After Costa Mesa, whose $165,388 in average compensation for city workers led Orange County, is Newport Beach ($165,025) and Huntington Beach ($162,713).
Santa Ana city manager David Cavazos' $453,092 compensation package not only ranked highest of any city worker in Orange County but was the fifth highest of any city manager statewide, according to Transparent California.
He is followed by Newport Beach police chief Jay Johnson ($443,026) and Newport Beach fire chief Scott Poster ($408,662).
What's interesting is how, thanks to overtime, some of the top earners are not the high-profile city leaders whose names are often in the press and are more vulnerable to political changes on their respective city councils.
According to Transparent California, the top five OT payouts to city workers in Orange County went to: Anaheim firefighter Daniel Lambert, whose $156,693 OT payout was 53 percent more than his $102,065 salary; Anaheim fire engineer III Brian Pollema, whose $156,191 OT payout was 38 percent more than his $113,218 salary; Huntington Beach fire captain Gary Finney, whose $154,491 OT payout was 30 percent more than his $118,477 salary; Huntington Beach police officer Tai Huynh, whose $147,744 OT payout was 58 percent more than his $93,267 salary; and Anaheim senior electrical utility inspector Kenneth Heffernan, whose $150,790 OT payout was 58 percent more than his $89,092 salary.
All of the top OT earners in Orange County received outsized OT payments for at least the past three years, notes Transparent Californiaís research director Robert Fellner.
He considers such a large and continuous concentration of overtime pay within a select few employees as dangerous, particularly for police and fire workers. "These overtime payments indicate an average work week of nearly 80 hours, for years on end," Fellner says. "This is a recipe for disaster given the life-or-death situations police and fire officers routinely encounter."
Compensation is defined as total wages plus the employer cost of retirement and health benefits. Full-time, year-round employees are defined as those receiving a salary equal or greater to 90 percent of the annual salary minimumî reported.
Other interesting findings by Transparent California, which is a project of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank:
* Employee compensation increased 10 percent in Orange and Newport Beach since the previous year—the the most of any Orange County cities.
* Santa Ana's 27 percent increase in overtime spending was the highest countywide.
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* Three police officers in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Santa Ana collected compensation packages worth more than triple their salaries.
The entire dataset is available in a searchable and downloadable format at TransparentCalifornia.com.