Currently the monthly salary for city councilmembers is set at $1138, or $13,656 annually, which became effective in June 2014. Under the California Government Code, the city can provide councilmembers with an annual salary based on population, and that amount may be increased a certain amount each calendar year since the last adjustment.
Under state law, the city council could increase the salary amount up to an additional $228 per month, to be effective July 2018. City council should consider an increase of $175 per month for a total monthly salary of $1,313, or $15,756 annually.
According to a staff report submitted by Mayor Pro Tem Brett Lee, “The reason for this increase is to acknowledge the increased out of pocket expenses incurred by serving on the City Council, as well as the desire to make the option of serving more attractive for those with limited incomes.”
The mayor pro tem also looked at the $100 campaign contribution limit of $100 per person per election cycle.
The item notes that the limit was put into place in 1991. “Since then, the population has more than doubled, the cost to run a campaign has escalated, and campaign finance laws have changed. It is timely to update the election ordinance in order to comply with current law and minimize the risk of future litigation. Adjusting for inflation, the $100 limit set in 1991 would now be approximately $180, assuming an average 2.3% inflation rate each year.”
He recommends, “City Council should consider increasing the contribution limit to $150.00. The intent is not to weaken the positive effects of a contribution limit but to account for the increased costs of campaigns.”
According to staff, other parameters to consider (based on established case law) include:
- Contribution limits cannot be set too low. The contribution limit must not be so restrictive as to impede the ability to raise sufficient funds to mount an effective campaign.
- Contribution limits should have a cost-of-living adjustment. As an example, the contribution limits for California state candidates are adjusted every odd-numbered year to reflect any increase or decrease in the Consumer Price Index, then rounded to the nearest hundred.
- Contribution limits must be supported by a record demonstrating the need to prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption, such as evidence of past improper contributions. The amount of the limit may also be judged by the size of the city, the costs of media and staffing in the region, and other facts particular to our jurisdiction.
Finally, the mayor pro tem is looking to modify conflict of interest guidelines. These, he writes, are “meant to ensure that councilmembers make policy decisions in the public interest, rather than for private benefit or gain.”
City councilmembers must disqualify themselves from matters in which “they have a financial interest of a certain threshold.”
Under current conflict of interest provisions, these fall into two broad categories.
First, in regard to those providing gifts/income to councilmembers: “Depending on who a gift is from and the estimated fair market value, declaration of amounts and nature of gifts must be disclosed. If the amounts exceed a certain threshold, then the City Councilmember may be required to recuse themselves from voting on an item which may directly benefit the person/entity that provided the gifts/income.”
Second, in regard to close family members: “Certain types of investments and financial interests of a spouse, domestic partner or dependent children must be disclosed. If the amounts exceed a certain threshold, the councilmember must announce the conflict and recuse him/herself.”
Brett Lee proposes to expand the conflict definition of close family members to include additional individuals. Specifically, “the expanded definition would include children, parents and siblings of a councilmember. It is not anticipated that additional disclosure documents would be required to implement this proposal.”
This was an item submitted by Councilmember Brett Lee and not city staff. The next step would be for council to direct staff to return with ordinances.
—David M. Greenwald reporting