February 3, 2015 (San Diego) - In the above titled report issued today, the 2014/15 San Diego County Grand Jury found that the process mandated by the San Diego City Charter for setting the salary for the Mayor and Councilmembers is fundamentally flawed. Once every two years, a citizens’ group, the Salary Setting Commission, recommends an appropriate salary for the Mayor and members of the City Council. Councilmembers must then vote to accept, reduce, or reject that recommendation.
The Grand Jury suggests the process creates a conflict of interest, or at least the appearance of one, by requiring Councilmembers to vote for their own compensation. As a result, they are reluctant to vote themselves a salary increase. Since July 1, 2003, they have not had an increase, while the cost of living has increased by more than 25%.
The Grand Jury recommends an amendment to the City Charter by which salaries of the Mayor and Councilmembers are determined by an external benchmark. The report does not recommend that a specific benchmark be adopted. It cites two examples: linkage to salaries of Superior Court Judges set by the State Legislature, and linkage to the Consumer Price Index published by the Federal Bureau of Labor Standards. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors and the City of Los Angeles use the former, while the City of Long Beach employs the latter method.
The report recommends that the newly created Charter Review Committee fully vet a new process for setting Mayoral and Councilmember salaries, and place the required charter amendment on the ballot in June or November 2016. The new process would take effect on July 1, 2017 if approved by the voters.