According to an article in the Press Enterprise by Alicia Robinson the Riverside city council members enjoy a $39,405 year salary for doing a parttime job plus a free car and gas credit card to do “official business”. This free car cost the city $5,000 to $7,000 per year for purchase, insurance, and general upkeep. The pay out for monthly usage of the vehicles varies from member to member because of the definition of “official business” between each member. 6th Ward council member Nancy Hart sold her personal car because once she got the city car her personal car was not used.
Steve Adams drove his city car to Santa Barbara many times to shopping centers and stopped in Ojai and went shopping, not bad for “official business”.
According to the city charter section 403 the council members are entitled to compensation when doing “official duties” and “shall be reimbursed on order of the city council.” One of my questions would be is what constitutes “official duties or business”? Would “official business” mean that the council members would get council direction first to visit Santa Barbara and make a report back to the council or could the member wake up on a beautiful day and say to the family let’s drive up the coast to Santa Barbara and check out some shopping centers? While another council member wakes up and tells their family let’s travel down to Mexico and visit our sister city. Or yet another council member waking up and saying to his/her family or friends let’s go to Arizona for a conference? Is each council member doing it in the name of “official business” for the city but never reporting back to the city of their findings? What about the number of local trips within the city that are not related to city business such as personal shopping or grooming?
Also, according to the article this free car program was implemented when Brad Hudson became city manager. Brad Hudson is now under fire from some community groups that do not like his management style of communicating with the minority community.
They are demanding Hudson be fired and return integrity to city hall, implying that these perks and other things have happened without public discussion.
I want to commend Council members Mike Gardner and Chris MacArthur for not accepting this free car program because it is these kinds of perks to policymakers that clouds the thinking. It is other perks of giving council members untraceable license plates that have community members upset.
With the public demanding more transparency from their elected officials, it would behoove the council to evaluate their relationship with staff and the perks they enjoy. They should also revisit why they sought the office of policymaker for the city. Was it to get perks or lead the city with good policies to improve the quality of life for its citizens and be good neighbors to surrounding communities?