Outcry over firefighters making up to $400,000 – Despite ever-tightening budgets, hefty paydays are actually becoming the norm for a lot of firefighters

Mar 4, 2017

SAN RAMON, Calif. — Despite ever-tightening budgets, hefty paydays are actually becoming the norm for a lot of firefighters.

In 2015, some firefighters with the San Ramon Valley Fire District were making as much as $400,000 a year in total compensation, CBS San Francisco reports. More than half of the full-time employees at the department make more than $300,000 in total compensation a year, according to data collected by the watchdog group Transparent California.

“Does it make sense that a battalion chief in San Ramon should earn $300,000 when our governor only earns $180,000 a year in compensation?” said Jack Weir, president of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association.

But one department said that paying out a lot of overtime is actually saving taxpayers money.

San Ramon Valley Fire Chief Paige Meyer says the $300,000 figure doesn’t tell the whole story. That number includes pension and benefits, so in reality, he says, firefighters take home about half of their total compensation.

“So, if someone makes $1, we ending up close to spending 90 cents for their pension, so that’s $1.90, roughly,” Meyer said. “And then we also have the costs of healthcare.”

Meyer said pension and healthcare obligations can mean it’s cheaper to pay a firefighter overtime instead of hiring someone new and adding an extra set of benefits costs.

“Saving can be upwards of 25 to 30 percent,” Meyer said.

Firefighters are guaranteed about 70 percent of their income after retirement in their 50s. In San Ramon, firefighters contribute close to 25 percent of their income to their pension.

Weir believes the system won’t work in the long run.

“It’s unreasonable, it’s unaffordable and most importantly, from a taxpayer’s perspective and from the perspective of the firefighters, it’s unsustainable,” Weir said.

But Meyer says San Ramon is an example of a fire district doing things right.

“We have a very sustainable system,” Meyer said. “We’re paying all of our unfunded liabilities. We’re actually one of the only agencies that I know of in the United States that pays extra money toward our unfunded liabilities in retired, medical and pension costs.”

Meyer also says a starting firefighter in San Ramon would make about $90,000 in salary alone.

© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/san-ramon-california-firefighters-making-up-to-400k/

Deputy arrested for allegedly having sex with teenage girl in Explorer program

San Bernardino, California –

Authorities say a deputy with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department has been arrested on suspicion of having unlawful sexual intercourse with a teenage girl participating in the department’s youth Explorer program.

The department says in a statement Deputy David Israel Ceballos was arrested Friday on charges of sexual intercourse and sexual penetration with a foreign object on a minor. His bail was set at $100,000.

It says the 14-year veteran started a sexual relationship with the 17-year-old after meeting her in mid-2016. She is now 18.

They say other Explorer scouts reported Ceballos to a deputy serving as an Explorer advisor and that started an investigation. There are no other known alleged victims at this time.

The department says 34-year-old Ceballos was placed on paid leave pending a separate administrative investigation.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-explorer-20170101-story.html

Fullerton City Manager Joe Felz – who crashed his car after drinking on election night, will retire at the end of the month

Fullerton, California

Fullerton City Manager Joe Felz, who has been leave since he crashed his car after drinking on election night, will retire at the end of the month, according to a letter Councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald read during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

“After many years working in public service, I have decided that my family now needs to be my first priority, and I will take some time away from working to spend time with my children as they enter their high school years,” read Fitzgerald from Felz’s letter while choking back tears.

In the wee hours of Nov. 9 after attending election night parties, Felz crashed his minivan within a half a mile from his house in a residential neighborhood north of downtown – driving it over a curb and into a tree. When police responded to the scene, they smelled alcohol on Felz but did not give him a breathalyzer test.

A police sergeant conducted a field sobriety test and apparently determined Felz was not drunk, according to a memo former Police Chief Dan Hughes sent to some council members later that day.

New Mayor Bruce Whitaker, who has been outspoken about the incident, wasn’t included in the email from Hughes to the rest of the council.

“Joe (Felz) has not had the opportunity to discuss with (then) Councilmember Whitaker so he asked that I delay sending it to him until he has an opportunity to do so,” read the email from Hughes, who left the city last month to take a job at Disneyland.

Whitaker previously said Felz called him the day after the crash and said he lost control of the car because he was fidgeting with loose wires underneath the steering column.

The city attorney’s office has denied requests by Voice of OC for both the police report on the crash and body camera footage. The case has been sent to District Attorney Tony Rackauckas for review.

Although the city referred a Voice of OC reporter seeking a report on the incident to an internal affairs investigator, neither the department nor City Attorney Dick Jones will confirm or deny an ongoing internal affairs investigation.

On Tuesday, Fitzgerald said Felz helped bring aboard Hughes to clean up the police department after the city was engulfed in controversy following the 2011 beating death of Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man, at the hands of Fullerton officers.

“When we needed a leader to step up and lead us through those tough times, Mr. Felz stepped up and was there,” Fitzgerald said.

“I can’t thank him enough for his decades of hard work in the city,” Councilman Greg Sebourn said.

After the meeting, Whitaker said he plans to press Rackauckas’ office for more information about the case.

Meanwhile, the city will hold a special meeting Jan. 5 to begin the selection process for an interim city manager. Human Resources Director Gretchen Beatty has been the acting city manager since the election night crash.

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC contributing writer. He can be reached at spencercustodio@gmail.com.

http://voiceofoc.org/2016/12/fullerton-city-manager-announces-retirement/