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UPDATED: Council Reviews City Manager Paul Arevalo's Performance

Six people offer feedback during the public portion of a special City Council session concerning Arevalo's yearly performance evaluation.

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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WeHoOne February 17, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Heilman loves to "phone" in. It's part of his "phone-y act".
jimmy palmieri February 18, 2012 at 12:12 AM
I am distressed that Heilman was not there for public comment. Although Arevalo seemed a bit uncomfortable, I am hoping that some of the comments made were helpful to him. I do not question the salary. I do however know that he has a PR problem. One that could be easily solved. The present councilmemebers (not heilman , although he was supposedly phoning in) seemed very receptive to the comments and concerns. I am glad that for the most part, that this was extremely civilized.
joninla February 18, 2012 at 01:24 AM
As one of the over-posting on Patch, I have to say from the unexpected notice about an unknown process by a strange multi-story posting all over Patch, I don't have any idea what was going on from procedure, to purpose, intent, finding and possible options therefrom the City Council could or could not make. Does this story say the City Manger is taking credit for the excessive annual income the City derives from morally questionable excess ticketing of cars, to the reliance on the so called 'sin' taxes the nightlife brings to the City, yet is not used to buffer the Residents from the negatives that same income brings (noise, traffic, parking, crime, safety and overall effects upon the residents. The atypical growing excess annual revenue (in this economy) is more disturbing rather than what would otherwise be a reassure state of local affairs. The money the City Manger is responsible for in a process of secrecy, else total silence is, to me, RED BELLS & WHISTLES SCREAMING THAT THERE IS SOMETHING NOT KOSHER GOING ON WITH THE CITY MANAGER AND HIS PERSONAL STAKES BEING POSSIBLY INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM CITY ASSETS, FUNDS AND PROPERTY. And that "brown act" reference as an excuse to hide, when it was intended to open up local government from precisely this type of closed door meetings and unknown daily practices in dealing with our large annual budget.
joninla February 18, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Re Phoning It In: When I first heard some kibbitzing story about Heilman using an internet like to participate in a meeting during his vacation in Ibiza - it made no sense to me at all. Why? Everyone is entitled to vacation time. What is going on - "like the voice of god" it was described as Heilman would sound in druing a basic City Council Meeting. My questioning of this unusual story, I was told it is not unusual, but a twice yearly event when Heilman is in Ibiza. Ibiza?? I know it's 'vacation destination' and popularity for Western European Tourists, and some elite East Coast US residents. I've never heard of it being a regular vacation spot for anyone from the West Coast of the US. I thought: 1. Well he won't have to worry about running into anyone from West Hollywood and 2. Such a long distance for vacation - I would think only the ability to get first class upgrades along the way and at the beach resort would make it worthwhile. Who could get such upgrade benefits? The Council Member of the little City that has most of the Hotel and Tourism based large owners and developers of hotels. Hmmmm ....... That would only seem natural (and no effort and cost to a hotel corporation) as a sigh of appreciation for the effort Heilman has done to push Hotel Growth & Building while blabbering about his primary goal of preventing any new major Development. I am sure they are even more grateful to Heilman than just a twice yearly first class trip to Ibiza.??
Chris Bray February 18, 2012 at 03:46 AM
It's always funny that Paul Arevalo "is credited with maintaining West Hollywood’s AAA credit rating." Because of the historical accident of its placement and separation from the City of Los Angeles, West Hollywood grew up as a place for adults to play. Now, our 1.9 square-mile city is crammed with hotels, which generate spectacular levels of transient occupancy tax, and nightclubs and restaurants, which generate very nice levels of sales tax. Paul Arevalo caused West Hollywood to have lots of hotels and lots of hotel tax revenue? He called the Sunset Strip into existence with the power of his personality? Bureaucrats: when good things happen, they all take the credit. When bad things happen, "unfortunate setbacks occurred." Paul Arevalo did not make West Hollywood what it is. He is not responsible for its tax base. And his modest duties do not merit a base salary near $350,000. This is madness, and madness that apparently can't be stopped.
Todd Bianco February 18, 2012 at 04:06 PM
The finance people are really the department/agency that keep WeHo running well, although like all CEOs, they take credit when things are going well but point fingers when they aren't. But as @Chris Bray says, West Hollywood is an anomaly because of the commercial districts of Santa Monica Blvd (the defacto center of gay life in LA - not withstanding the smaller cluster in Silver Lake), the Sunset Strip - world famous, infamous and desirable long before incorporation and the boutique portions of Melrose Ave that include the PDC. It also helps to be Beverly Hills adjacent. Incorporation has definitely helped the area remain vital and stopped some of the decay and neglect that were hallmarks of County stewardship. Self determination and renter's rights and the desire to preserve the "village" feel on West Hollywood led to Cityhood. But the intoxicating financial windfalls from the transient occupancy tax, egregious parking ticket revenue (being matched by other municipalities these days) and booming sales tax revenue from sales of alcohol, restaurant meals and other luxury retail keep the coffers in good condition, despite the recession and general dismal state of the overall economy. We are lucky to have what we have as a city, but I can't help but think things could be better if things weren't run by executive fiat most of the time.
Henry Scott February 18, 2012 at 04:10 PM
A council member who can't be bothered to show up for the annual performance evaluation of the city manager? John Heilman's arrogance is appalling!
Todd Bianco February 18, 2012 at 04:28 PM
I don't know if this was arrogance on the part of Mr. Heilman or just a scheduling conflict. He really does teach law school at Whittier and he does have evening classes. It seems to me that this meeting was hastily called (why, remains a mystery) as this was a Planning Commission night, not the regular Council meeting or even an executive session on the regular calendar.
joninla February 18, 2012 at 04:34 PM
The fallback excuse that the City is doing well so we, the residents have nothing to complain about, reminds me of the scene from the Devil Wears Prada.. "I just don't get it. I work and work and work my ass off trying to do every impossible task she asks for, but whenever I do anything right, she says nothing, like it never happened .... But god forbid I do something wrong,my god I think she is going to rip my head of .... It's just not fair." WAKE UP - SHE IS NOT YOUR MOTHER AND YOU DON'T GET A PAT ON YOUR HEAD FOR DOING SOMETHING RIGHT. IT'S YOUR JOB. AND YOU EXPECT HER TO WORSHIP AT YOUR FEET AND PUT A GOLD STAR ON YOUR FOREHEAD JUST BECAUSE YOU DID SOMETHING RIGHT? YOU DON'T LIKE IT - THEN QUIT. A MILLION GIRLS WOULD WOULD KILL FOR YOUR JOB. YOU DON'T LIKE IT - THEN QUIT. I CAN GET A HUNDRED GIRLS IN 5 MINUTES, ALL OF WHOM WOULD KILL FOR YOUR JOB, AND YOU SIT HERE COMPLAINING THAT YOU ARE NOT BEING APPRECIATED. THEN QUIT. We, the residents of the City have the right and the responsibility to call out every single problem with the way the employees of the City are performing their jobs. If we the Residents don't complain, who will? When there is no public input about the way or city is run, the City Manager is quite content with himself and his performance. Question his actions, and life is not so cush for him. If he doesn't like answering the Residents concerns, THEN QUIT. It a job and he is always responsible for his actions.
Sheila Lightfoot February 18, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Great comments by all. In light of all the community concern being expressed about Mr. Arevalo's performance, here's an interesting "business as usual" note. 2.S. in the Consent Calendar for the upcoming Feb 21 City Council meeting agenda is the appointment of 2 members to the oversight board to the successor agency (the City) of the now dissolved West Hollywood Community Development Agency (the redevelopment agency). Staff recommends that the Mayor appoint Roderick Burnley, Acting Housing Manager and... guess who... City Manager Paul Arevalo. In a nutshell, the oversight board directs or must approve certain actions taken by the successor agency (the City).
Rudolf Martin February 18, 2012 at 06:50 PM
The city have posted a statement with their numbers at the end of this article. I believe it is Jeffrey Prang who deserves credit for this effort to be open with the public. However i still don't understand the discrepancy with the numbers that Steve Ward got from the City website (City Manager wages $568,403 including fringes for 2011-2012). I have been told that at least some of the difference is compensation for vacations not taken. does that account for the difference of $ 279,376.00? Further clarification would probably be helpful.
Rudolf Martin February 18, 2012 at 06:56 PM
sheila, who were the members of the West Hollywood Community Development Agency (the redevelopment agency)? my understanding was, that the 5 city council members WERE the redevelopment agency. are they also the successor agency? if so, does this mean that the city council appoints their own employees to direct and approve their actions? that would be farcical to no end.
joninla February 18, 2012 at 07:51 PM
In all seriousness, if I had to vote for one person to stand in as a representative or witness for the ordinary residents who are so out of the loop, I personally think Sheila would be the best person. Her combo of never giving up, probing and directing issues to a common point, and a wonderful moderator who acknowledges everyone input, regardless of it clarity or sanity. But you said the City Manager was being considered for that position - which actually makes sense. It is the one division he does not already have absolute power and no accountability. A natural for an oversight of the leaders of the city. :)
Stephanie February 18, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Why WAS this closed session meeting scheduled at exactly the same time as the Planning Commission Meeting? Why was it scheduled when Prof. Heilman could not attend? And regardless of what anyone tells us...it was not posted online until sometime after 1:30am Tuesday morning. Mr. Mills, your choice of the word "only" in only six people showed up, it intimates that only six people cared enough to show up. I know for a fact others tried to show up, myself included, but due to worse than usual, nightmarish traffic, were unable to make it in time to make comment. I vote for 7:00pm time slots for ALL city meetings.
Todd Bianco February 18, 2012 at 08:47 PM
@Rudolf, I'm pretty sure that the budget numbers for the City are bianeal - it covers a two year period. So if you divide $568k by two, you come to a more reasonable number, even if it doesn't exactly reconcile because it's an average - $284,201. That is pretty close to the $289,027 reported in the article for 2011. If you subtract the $59,963 in total benefits (nice package, if you can get it) his base salary would be $229,064 which isn't nearly as egregious as $586k (including benefits) for ONE year.
Riley February 19, 2012 at 03:37 AM
FYI - the President of the United States makes $400,000 a year!
Steve Ward February 19, 2012 at 09:46 PM
The meeting was held at the same time as the very important Planning Commission's Land-Use meeting. To be in 2 places at once is impossible. At 6:42pm when six of us were told public comment was over, we headed to chambers. In regards to Mr. Arevalo's true salary, all in, the guy is making $350K year. Prang uses base numbers & does not account for the Council approving the $295K+fringes(Pension, health, car) totaling close to $350K per year. Again, the final figures to evaluate Mr. Arevalo with his $350K/yr salary, an assistant who makes $100K/per year and TWO interns making about $25K getting us close to that ultimate number from his budget of $568,403. @ChrisBray, you are on it too. Even PT Prang has a hard time figuring out what the math is because there truly is no transparency for Mr. Arevalo's accountability & salary scale. For some high-apid CM to sit and sleep during Council meetings & dismiss any objections from the community that may differ from Arevalo is wrong. He is to report to the Community, he forgets. The idea and manipulation of appointing Arevalo (1 of 2 members to the oversight board to the successor agency (the City) of the now dissolved WeHo Community Development Agency (the redevelopment agency) is a joke and scam. I am sure Jenkins is working something out right now to ensure of this of happening. The million dollar question of the day is how much money is Arevalo rewarded with through his pension? Drumroll please...
joninla February 19, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Come on, lets be a little fair. Weho is small, but a city with all the same number of tasks, jobs, devision into departments to handle all the totally different matters that a city faces. Sometimes it is impossible to please everyones calendar to make every meeting occur with out overlap, given the space available for all meetings.   WAIT! WAIT! Wait!  WeHo must have the most public meeting rooms and the number keeps growing, and The council runs Everything by majority vote of the 5 members, and the tile of Mayor is just a figuirehead. So I guess there is no tangible excuse ... :)
joninla February 19, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Well I have to say, I don't know what "million dollar question you are referring to!' whatever Mr. Arevalo's secret contractual pension  has nothing to do woth a million dollars.  A milliom dollars won't even cover the legal fees to discclose and attempt to pevent his future pension bankrupt the city.  Million dollar? It is about Hundredes of Millions of Dollars we are going to have to pay for this guys years of doing for the city ... Or maybe I should say "DOING THE CITY" for all it is worth. We are gettig screwed from all ends ... And for once in weho, not in a way thay the residents would like it to be.

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