City Manager Paul Arevalo is credited with maintaining West Hollywood’s AAA credit rating at a time when other cities are severely cutting services or facing bankruptcy. The 50-year-old is also a lightning rod for criticism by residents due to his high salary, failure to respond to phone calls or emails, and the large amount of time he spends out of the office.
Thursday night, Arevalo, city manager since 2000 and Director of Finance before that, received his yearly performance evaluation during a special session of the City Council. As is allowed under the Brown Act, the Council's feedback was given during a closed session, but the beginning of that evaluation process was open for the public to make comments about Arevalo’s performance.
Even though the Arevalo evaluation was a hot topic of discussion on the Weho Patch comment boards, only six people showed up to give their feedback in person. According to City Hall insiders, about a dozen emails regarding Arevalo’s evaluation were also received.
Among the six people present at the session, Arevalo’s annual salary was the biggest concern. While his salary has been reported to range from $275,000 to more than $500,000, the insiders told Patch Arevalo’s 2010 salary was $347,000 plus benefits.
One person wanted to know how the city could justify such a high salary in a city of 34,000 people. Another person said that Arevalo’s salary seemed out of line given that city services have been cut in other areas such as family activities in Plummer Park.
The incomplete report on city-sponsored special events was another source of concern. Despite having six months to complete that report, when Arevalo submitted it to the Council in January, it lacked figures for cost and attendance at each event. One public commenter noted that in the private sector, Arevalo would have been fired for turning in an incomplete report, especially given that those numbers should have been readily available to him.
The fact that Arevalo lives in Pasadena was a concern for some people. They said that since he does not live in West Hollywood, he does not use the city like a resident would, and therefore does not understand the concerns of residents and problems that need to be addressed.
Other commenters said that Arevalo suffers from a PR problem, noting that the public perception is that he only reports to two councilmembers (Abbe Land and John Heilman), rather than all five. Arevalo’s less-than-transparent ways of conducting city business was also mentioned.
Even though the speakers addressed the council with their comments, Arevalo was present to hear everything. He appeared uncomfortable as he listened to the criticism, but did not respond to anything that was said.
After the public comment portion of the meeting ended, the council went into closed session to give Arevalo their feedback. That session lasted more than two hours. However, what specifically was said to Arevalo is not expected to be made public.
Councilman John Heilman, who is said to be Arevalo’s biggest advocate, was not present for this special council session. Heilman is reported to have been busy teaching a class, but planned to phone in during some portion of the session.
UPDATE: City Hall has released the following statement regarding Arevalo's salary:
"The salary for the West Hollywood City Manager Paul Arevalo in 2011 was $289,027. (This amount includes his annual salary, allowance for business-related expenses, technology allowance and car allowance.) The cost of employee benefits for the City Manager position (which are similarly paid for all City employees) in 2011 was $59,963 which includes the cost of retirement, medical, dental and vision benefits, and life insurance."
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