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Oakley Council Should Upgrade to Ironhouse Compensation Package

By Michael Burkholder

In the name of fairness, maybe the time has come for the City of Oakley to adopt the Ironhouse Sanitary District Board compensation package to its City Council. After all, it’s the fair thing to do since Ironhouse makes nearly three times what our councilmembers make for far less effort.

According to the Ironhouse Sanitary District Bylaws, each member of the Board shall receive compensation in an amount not to exceed $170 per day whether it is 15-minutes of work or four hours, they get the $170—not exceeding six days in a calendar month. They also receive medical ($625-$1,588 a month), dental and vision which vary based on plans.

To put this in perspective, with just meeting compensation and medical ($2,608 x 12), a director can max out at $31,296 per year which does not include travel, mileage, food reimbursements, dental or vision.

Contrast that to the Oakley City Council who get paid a monthly stipend at $435—or just $5,220 per year. Using common sense, they also have a far greater amount of meetings to attend and responsibilities that reach a far greater reach of people.

What is scary about this compensation is that one director who maxes out at Ironhouse will make more than the entire Oakley City Council. This is a flat out rip off to ratepayers.  When you look at the Grand Jury Report from last year, as a Board, Ironhouse cost ratepayers $94,070 while Oakley City Council was just $28,544.

It is my belief that when you sit on a board, you have a certain responsibility to those who elected you to office to attend your committee meeting and meet with ratepayers as part of your job description—one shouldn’t get paid additional meetings for doing their job they were elected to do. It’s about doing the right thing, Ironhouse Directors are taking advantage of the loose bylaws and charging ratepayers for items they have no business charging. Meanwhile, they continue to raise your rates each year.

Since this is occurring at Ironhouse and few people seem to care, then the Oakley City Council should then follow the same rules and also get paid the same $170 stipend for their committee meetings and any ad-hoc committee that is formed or any phone calls/conference calls or groundbreakings/openings they attend.

Here is some items I’ve pulled off Doug Hardcastle, Michael Painter, and David Contreras time cards over the last few years which you have paid for that falls outside their monthly meeting (I could have gone all the way back to 2000, but this gives you the point). Remember, this is $170 a pop which most of these are re-occurring each month.

Here is a snippet from Doug Harcastle

  • Hardcastle – Attending Oakley City Council Meetings
  • Hardcastle – Check signings (monthly)
  • Hardcastle – Special workshop (no description given)
  • Hardcastle – Lunch meeting with Tom Williams (Feb 2012)
  • Hardcastle – Meeting w/Tom (no description from 12/28)
  • Hardcastle – April 2009, he charged to attend his own Groundbreaking

Here is a snippet from Michael Painter

  • Painter – Delta Science Center Board Meeting (monthly)
  • Painter – Check Signing
  • Painter – meeting with Tom Williams (no description given)
  • Painter – watershed meeting (11/17)
  • Painter – Grand Opening (10/15)
  • Painter – Agenda Meeting w/Tom Williams (3/28)
  • Painter – Friends of Marsh Creek Meeting (12/17)
  • Painter – Meeting with Jim Frazier, City of Oakley (11/19)
  • Painter – Antioch Recycled Water Grand Opening (8/23)
  • Painter – Roni Gehlke – Newsletter (3/12)
  • Painter – Delta Science Center Teleconference  (12/16)
  • Painter – Helicopter Tour Franchise Agreement subcommittee

Here is a snippet from David Contreras who was recently appointed and has little history at the District.

  • Contreras – Outreach Committee Meeting (monthly)
  • Contreras – Newsletter
  • Contreras – Public Outreach (no description)
  • Contreras – Public Outreach – Ad-Hoc  Committee

As you can see, these are some very questionable charges to ratepayers with little explanation. Full reform must be done to end these abuses to ratepayers. While $170 isn’t much per day, over time it does add up! I would hope that since Ironhouse falls within  Supervisor Mary Piepho District, she could have a little chat to ensure changes are made.  While it’s not under her authority per-say, LAFCO could come in and force the changes.

Now while I am sure at some point this will be taken out of context, but lets have some fun and apply Ironhouse rules to the Oakley Council. Meaning each time they answer phone calls from City Staff they can charge $170 to the City. Every time they have a breakfast/lunch with Bryan Montgomery, they can charge residents a $170.

This is what each council person would make if the city paid $170 per additional committee meeting to our council—I’ve also added the $435 stipend for city council meetings in the figure which would come to an annual rate far greater than the current $5,220 for everyone but Randy Pope.

  • Anderson: $10,200 +$5,220 = $15,420
  • Frazier: $18,360 + $5,220 = $23,580
  • Pope: $0 (no committees at this time) + $5,220 = $5,220
  • Rios: $4,080 + $5,220 = $9,300
  • Romick – $22,440 + $5,220 = $27,660

Combined, Oakley should be paying its council a combined $82,980 in salary to attend meetings. Now for the kicker, since Ironhouse essentially gets its 5-additional “floater” meetings, add that to each councilperson each month which equates to an additional $10,200 annually per councilperson ($51,000 combined).  Throw in the annual medical benefits of $19,056 ($95,280) for the council and the total compensation would equate to $229,260.

The point of this exercise is not that I want the City Council to increase their pay, because I don’t and I am being facetious here,  but to highlight what Ironhouse has gotten away with for far to long. It also highlights how ridiculous the Ironhouse pay and compensation package is when applied elsewhere.

If Oakley attempted such a move to apply the Ironhouse compensation package, residents would be out with pitchforks and torches calling for resignations. At Ironhouse, residents don’t’ say a word on the pay or benefits or event when rates are increased.  It is my belief that if elected, one should serve by doing the right thing and serve the ratepayers, not create meetings out of nothing in order to fatten ones pockets.

Doug Hardcastle should not be given $170 to attend City Council Meetings and Michael Painter should not be given $170 to attend the Delta Science Center Meetings (a non-profit of all things). David Contreras is charging to do a newsletter instead of staff? Give me a break.  These are just a few small abuses that go on monthly.  Request their time cards and you will see what I am talking about–or I can just give them to you!

It’s time for the ratepayers to stop giving Ironhouse a pass on their pay and benefits and demand some real reform that will protect the rates while putting their pay inline with the Oakley City Council. You are being ripped off and the time has come to make changes that benefit the ratepayers, not the Board.

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18 Responses »

  1. Two points- first I must be old fashion because I don’t believe that anyone should be receiving compensation for an elected position. You chose to serve your community. The ECCFD board is volunteer. Why shouldn’t the others be volunteer? Second-where is the outrage over these payments and benefits. People have been jumping up and down about public safety but not a word about these elected positions and appointed commissions. Look at all the state commissions that come with $100,000 salaries and benefits. For what one or two meetings a year?

    • So true Barbara, they attack fire and public safety, but Ironhouse gets a pass. ECCFPD is not paid so why should Ironhouse be paid, both are special districts.

    • Barbara, I guess I’d of made a larger impact if I had suggested ECCFPD rake in the same as Ironhouse, it would be 9 instead of 5–basically you would have doubled the numbers.

      Kenny got hammered for suggesting a small stipend at the last meeting. Heck, why not the way no one seems to be paying attention!

  2. I would suggest people get behind another candidate for City Council as I will never support Doug Hardcastle for council after learning about how he has ripped off ratepayers for so long. This guy is a criminal. Has anyone looked into Mike Painter and this Delta Science Center scam? A non-profit and he is getting $170 to attend? FPPC anyone?

  3. My jaw is on the floor, holy cow! Is Oakley/Bethel Island ratepayers asleep at the wheel? Well done Burk. I think Mr. Hardcastle should refund every dime he has accepted for attending an Oakley City Council meeting. Does “civic duty” ring a bell? Why has none of the other candidates running for council brought up Hardcastle’s abuses?

  4. For those who have been around Oakley in the last 30 years, one would know Mr. Painter is only out for himself and is one of the biggest crooks in the town. I would urge people to look deeper into his past and you will be shocked at who and how many he has ripped off. The Ironhouse Board is just the tip of the iceburg. I wouldn’t be suprised if he is breaking laws with the Delta Science Center and Ironhouse pay.

  5. Without a doubt, this is the best article I’ve read in a long time. I agree with the comments, Hardcastle should return the money and Mike Painter should also return the Delta Science Center money. If not, refuse to cast your vote in their favor on electon day, these guys are scamming the ratepayers left and right.

    As for Piepho, while Burk is correct she can’t do much about it, she can have a nice chat and put some pressure. But she is rarely in oakley so doubt she will care as she has bigger fish to fry with the CONFIRE tax.

  6. Thank you Mr. Burkholder for putting a spin on this that makes people understand what is really going on. It’s not about service of community, its about these directors fattening their wallets at ratepayers expsense. I am offended the media such as the Contra Costa Times and Brentwood Press refuse to cover this story you keep handing them on a silver platter.

  7. Well done Burk. This puts things in perspective to the everyday resident who is unaware what Ironhouse is doing because its within there property tax bill. ECCFPD is unpaid, so should ironhouse!

  8. Burk as always your on it. I think that Oakley should up its pay along with the ECCFPD. Let’s be fair about this. I think that after that happens any other government agency that does not pay that much should also raise the salaries. Thats why I’m voting for Obama, because everyone should get the maximum out of government. Heck, I will probably quit my taxpaying job so I can join the rest of the entitlement clan. When it all is paid out and noone pays in I will be dead and gone. Then only your children will have to deal with the problem because I don’t have any. Great idea, lets take until there is no more to take. This is the way of life now. Lets all get use to it while it lasts because when its gone your kids will live like the poor children in third world countries. That’s how they got where they are.

    • Mr. B! Everyone should applaud your work. I wish to gosh we had something like this in Antioch! The Press should be all over this since it is your local newsprint. I wouldn’t expect the Antioch Herald to do anything like this. The skills aren’t there.

  9. This is one of the most underated sites I’ve been visiting for a while now, this is my first comment but I’ve been readng. Why have none of the papers picked up on the Ironhouse fraud? Are they protecting friends? Protecting advertisers? It seems like the Editorial Board and Mr. Burkholder would likely agree on a topic such as Ironhouse.

    I noticed Michael Painter gets paid to Delta Science Center. doesn’t the executive director work for the Times? No wonder why they are keeping their ink off the paper on this one.

    Kudos Mr. Burkholder, you have made a point that not many people would think about.

  10. Burke, you are an idiot. They cap themselves and its known what their benefits are. Applying them to what the city council does is comparing apples to oranges. The Times or Press don’t want your stories because you are bad at what you do. Rather than attack, find some real solutions which was not included in this article.

    You have attakced good people in the community and your not making any friends. I suggest you issue an appology for your constant attacks on an office you are running for.

  11. Mr. Burkholder,

    They are allowed to charge those meetings because its in the bylaws, look it up. Just like you attack the chamber, you are not attackin ironhouse as your new special project. Its better to make friends and work with them as opposed to going thr route you are headed. You will be run out of town if you continue. You are nothing more than someone who speaks propaganda and fails to provide real information to people. What a joke of an article.

    • It seems to me you naysayers are barking up the wrong tree. Mr. Burkholders support is growning by leaps and bounds.

      Some times though it is better to work from the outside rather than be one of them. You might be able to do more as you are. Once inside you are only one.

  12. I agree with Lori, it is likely in the bylaws (I haven’t read them) and what they are doing is legal. However, that doesn’t make it right. It is no big secret that we are in the middle of one of the most difficult economic times in history since the Depression. I think it is natural that citizens would expect their representatives to make decisions oh behalf of them that would, among other things, protect them financially.

    Many folks will say that this is all legal, that their pay is similar to other districts, that this is how it has always been, etc. but that is very short sighted thinking. Just because they CAN doesn’t mean they SHOULD take the types of benefits and pay they are currently getting. With a 9% unemployment rate in Contra Costa County that means that 9% of their customers are struggling to find the money to pay their bills. Many folks have seen cuts in pay or are underemployed- every couple dollars makes a difference to folks. It is gas in the car, food on the table, needed prescriptions etc…. I wonder if the board remembers these things when they are thinking about freezing the current pay structure or if they are trying to deal with how much to charge their rate payers or how much fees to charge someone considering building in the area?

    I think the board pay situation reflects poorly on the board and the sanitary district because it shows a disconnect from the current economic times and creates mistrust that they aren’t managing the sanitary district on behalf of the rate payers rather than on behalf of their own interests.

    If the board and the sanitary district are really answering to their rate payers they will start cutting the fat as all other municipalities have had to do in recent years. In addition they would recognize their ability to grow the local economy by making it less expensive for businesses and developeers to come to the area by lowering their fees. These efforts would in the long run bring in more revenue and would help the local economy grow.

    When considering a candidate for an elected position I always ask myself why are they running. If someone is running for the benefits and pay because their own businesses or jobs aren’t sustaining them then I am suspect. I want someone that has showed a history of serving their community, an ability to deal with and understand the complex issues of the position, and the fortitude to stand up for what is right.

    I hope that the ISD board will change the current pay/benefit structure. They CAN change it for the future but those sitting Board members can ALSO pledge to stop receiving lifetime benefits, they can pledge to cap their benefits costs, and they can pledge to limit their pay.

  13. Great Job Mr. Burkholder! I agree with you 100%.

    The topic that you raise here is important because it it goes to the motivation of these local politicians. I’ve spoken with some who feel that they “deserve” all the perks they can get because they are putting in so much time and effort. They point to other politicians who take more as a sort of skewed justification for their own actions. As far as I’m concerned, those politicians should step aside from this “public service”.

    In Discovery Bay we saw our water/sewer board receive thousands of dollars of stipends to which they were not legally entitled. Much, if not all, was eventually returned after a slow and expensive investigation and many closed session board discussions. Without the large amount of public outcry I don’t know if any of the money would have been returned. And even at that, the board members never did repay interest or reimburse the district for the cost of the investigation as required by law.

    We also saw the board vote themselves medical benefits two years ago right in the middle of raising our rates by over 30% during the heart of the recession. Again, public outcry led to their eliminating those benefits for directors, but they tried to get away with it. What we saw in Discovery Bay, and what I expect we will see in Ironhorse Sanitary District, is board members do what they can to get what they can until the public finds out and challenges them.

    I suggest that someone review these stipend claims closely. Applying the legal opinions that have been put forth with regard to the illegal stipends in Discovery Bay, it seems to me that some of the stipend items that Mr. Burkholder lists are not legally justified. I believe that Government Code §61047 is the controlling section.

    Don’t look for Contra Costa County Supervisor Mary Piepho to lend much support for the curtailing of these stipend payments. It was her husband who was the biggest abuser of the sipend law in Discovery Bay which led to him repaying $6,563.21 to the district. At the time, then Director Piepho boasted that he had spoken with the legislator who had authored the bill and that it was that person’s intent that these stipends be paid. Piepho said that he and that legistlator were going to work on changing the law so that the illegal stipends he had claimed would be justifiable.

    And the last time I looked Mary Piepho takes a $550+ monthly car allowance AND claims mileage reimbursement at more than 58 cents per mile. SHOULD Supervisor Piepho take the car allowance AND the mileage reimbursement? I don’t think so, but apparently she CAN.

    All I am saying is don’t look for help from Mary Piepho on perks for elected officials!

    Mr. Burkholder will almost certainly save ISD tens of thousands of dollars by bringing these outrageous practices out into the sunlight. Great job!

    I hope Mr. Burkholder will commit to forgo stipends, mileage reimbursement and any other perks from ISD if he is elected.

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