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BLOG: One Job, Two Checks: Double Dipping in Weho

The city's second-ranking administrator got a paycheck and a pension check for the same job at the same time, and Weho is still paying for both.

On Dec. 31, 2010, Assistant City Manager Joan English retired from her job at West Hollywood City Hall and started collecting her pension as a retired government employee. On the very next workday – January 3, 2011 – West Hollywood's new assistant city manager reported to work. Her name:

Joan English.

The contract that English signed to work as the city's part-time assistant city manager defined her job as a temporary one. But it was also renewed, carrying her through June 30, 2012 as a temp. When that latter date passed, English signed a new contract for temporary employment. Her new temporary employer? You'll never guess. See for yourself: Here's her new employment contract. As this month began, English was no longer the assistant city manager, but now instead works only as the manager of the city's 25th Anniversary Capital Project.

What this means is that for the last year and a half, English collected a pension as West Hollywood's assistant city manager, and also simultaneously collected a paycheck as West Hollywood's assistant city manager. She got paid twice for the same job. She clearly planned to do so, and took her double dip with the agreement of City Manager Paul Arevalo, who had the same job waiting for her the very workday after she left it.

This doubling up on public funds by working while "retired" is common behavior all over California, and Jerry Brown – very much to his credit – wants the legislature to put an end to it. You might consider writing to your state legislators to urge them to stop the double-dipping.

English is a minor leaguer in comparison to some double-dippers, by the way. In April of 2008, the chief of the UC Berkeley Police Department retired, took $2.1 million in pension benefits as a lump sum payment, and went back to work the next day. Four years later, it's still possible to game the system like that.

Someone is sure to argue that post-retirement employment is a way for government administrators to jump back in and help the public, temporarily putting their skills to work now and then when they're in a position to make a difference for their old employers.

But note what didn't happen here. It's not that English retired, and then a while later her old employer realized that they had a task for which her skills would be well-suited. They didn't bring back an old hand for her unique expertise. Rather, they planned and approved a retire-on-Friday, go-back-to-work-on-Monday deal in which she kept on doing the same job with no break in employment. And now her "temporary" post-retirement employment is in its second year.

You'll notice, if you look at the contract I've linked to above, that English is paid $109.34 an hour. That means she can make up to $104,966.40 a year as a temporary employee with part-time duties, in addition to collecting her city-funded pension from CalPERS. And she's on her third contract as a temporary employee.

But earlier contracts required the city to pay English a higher hourly rate: $143.00 per hour, again for up to 960 hours a year. Here's one of those contracts. That's annual pay of up to $137,280.00, in addition to her pension.

I've asked Joan English, by email and voice mail, to discuss her double-dipping deal with me. She didn't respond, but has another chance to do so here. Paul Arevalo also didn't respond to several questions sent by email, but did respond to another email message this week to say that English is staying on as capital projects manager but no longer working as assistant city manager. The city will recruit for that position this summer, he said.

Also, I'm still waiting for public records from CalPERS. I hope to be able to show you English's pension benefits, with documents as evidence, in a few days. But her contracts with the city acknowledge that she has retired and is receiving a CalPERS pension, so only the amount is unknown.

Remember deals like this when the city raises fees and says they need more revenue.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Weho Patch contacted the city for a response. Below is the statement the city released.

At the request of the City of West Hollywood, after retiring from full-time employment, Joan English continued to work on a part-time basis as the Assistant City Manager. Her breadth of experience was desired to oversee the completion of Phase I of the West Hollywood Park Master Plan.

During the course of the year, the City saved more than $125,000 with Joan working in a part-time capacity. Prior to Joan’s initiating the part-time contract, the City consulted with our labor attorney to ensure compliance with both PERS and IRS regulations for temporary workers.

This agreement was effective through June 30, 2012. Ms. English no longer holds the position of Assistant City Manager. However, the City has three vacant positions on the executive management team. Joan will continue to work part-time for the City to help us during this transition period and assist with development agreements and large-scale development projects. The City will begin recruitment for the Assistant City Manager position this summer.

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Chloe Ross July 12, 2012 at 10:13 PM
I drove past the Aaron Bros parking building at about 1:45 today. It was not full. It was not half full. It had some cars in it. I also noticed vis a vis code and exceptions - there is also a sit down burger restaurant a door or two away from Laurel Hardware. No clue.Parking?
Riley July 12, 2012 at 11:40 PM
My question is, why can the citizens NOT get a straight answer? Is it a) They do not want us to have the information b) they do not know the answer c) they do not want us to have the answer or d) all of the above.
Riley July 12, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Maybe this is partly true in all corporation i.e. small town contract cities... In a survey of 500 senior executives in the United States and the UK, 26 percent of respondents said they had observed or had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace, while 24 percent said they believed financial services professionals may need to engage in unethical or illegal conduct to be successful. Sixteen percent of respondents said they would commit insider trading if they could get away with it, according to Labaton Sucharow. And 30 percent said their compensation plans created pressure to compromise ethical standards or violate the law.
GoodGriefCharlieBrown July 13, 2012 at 12:02 AM
Finally an intelligent question with some substance. With all the meaningless back-and-forth, a question that asks for accountability is finally asked. WHO is hiding public information from the public? WHY? WHAT are they hiding? WHO are they accountable to besides themselves? WHO in city hall is being called out by name to face the public and do their job by explaining to the people how their business is being done? WHY does a member of the public need a press pass or media credentials to get a simple question answered by the people who work fo them? WHO do these city employees think they are and WHAT gives them immunity from public accountability? WHO is ultimatley answerable to the people if not the city council? WHY do people go to city council meetings and to speak & say nothing? WHY does not someone with some gumption demand answers from the city council instead of driving around reviewing parking lots & wondering who has a friend in the media who might qualify to get an answer to a question from city hall? No wonder this city council & city staff are running roughshod over those who claim to be city "leaders", who ask questions of the city council and get treated like dirt on their shoes, and leave with their tail between their legs? WHO will ask some meaningful questions in the upcoming campaign and stand their ground for answers? WHO will be the next of the mess on this council & in city hall to go?
Stephanie July 13, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Well, HOPEFULLY, GoodGriefCharlieBrown, that person standing up and speaking, will be Y-O-U. Collect your gumption and come to the City Council meeting this Mon., July 16, 6:30pm. Many people would love to hear from you live and in person as you have made some salient comments on this blog. So, will YOU be the one to stand up for us and leave with your tail wagging? I hope so. I hope you will not shirk your responsibility as a citizen to get involved on an active basis instead of just sniping from your computer. There has been a NEED to "review parking lots" as you put it. Why? Because the City is telling us we "need" more parking; over 10 million dollars worth at Plummer Park, even though the lots are rarely full, and 18 million dollars worth of parking behind City Hall even though they are spending $212,000 to study moving City Hall to San Vicente and the Kings Rd. lot is rarely full. When you do get up, be sure and have your facts ready, because they will call you out on it if you do not. I look forward to you taking a stand, "speaking and saying something" and "demanding answers." When you do, I, along with many others, will stand up and cheer for you. I look forward to it.

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