Attorney Bob Ottilie on San Diego City Council member pay hikes

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Since 2003 the San Diego City Council members have consistently refused to raise pay for themselves, the Mayor and the City Attorney.

The commission says this is a gross conflict of interest, and the County Grand Jury report last year agreed.

So why do they refuse a pay hike? The simple answer is self interest, despite 4-thousand city employees making more money than council members.

Attorney Bob Ottilie chairs the salary setting commission which over the years has recommended pay hikes to no avail.

"These people tend to vote against any pay raise so they can tell people when they run for reelection look at what a fiscal conservative I am I didn’t even raise my own pay," said Ottilie. "By keeping pay artificially low and precluding many people, in fact most people who would want to serve in public office from running, they essentially give themselves a built-in advantage."

Ottilie says it’s the politics of self-interest. Low pay drastically reduces the pool of potential candidates. Reducing the pool of candidates means you’re shutting out qualifies candidates who otherwise might run if the pay were higher.

"What we’ve created by very low pay is you tend to get staff members, who have always make a low amount of money, they can afford to live on 74 thousand a year or you get wealthy people who are past their time of career or sort of a retirement job," said Ottilie.

The commission is proposing that salaries be set by the voters not the council.   

"What we’ve aid if you can’t end the conflict yourselves, we’ll make it simple, we’ll end it for you, in the meantime offering them language for a charter amendment to fix this problem," said Ottilie.

The Charter Amendment attacks other conflict of interest issues by ending the practice of taking gifts.

"We’re going to have a 25 dollar limit that effectively eliminates gifts," said Ottilie.

The Mayor, council members, and the city attorney are full-time jobs. Your salary will be your income.

"No earned income from outside employment while you work for us, you work only for us," said Ottilie.

And no more free tickets in skyboxes at Padres and Chargers games. You pay the going market rate. The Mayor makes $100,000 and council members #75,000. Superior Court Judge makes $181,000.

What the commission is proposing is that salaries be tied to the judges income, and phased in over 8 years. In 2021 the salary would be 60% of the judge’s income. In 2023: 75%. 2025: equal to a judge’s pay.

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