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How Did Moreno Valley’s Retired City Manager Make $600,000 This Year?

Tom DeSantis announced in December that he was leaving his job at Moreno Valley City Hall. Keith Plocek

Being the city manager in Moreno Valley is a lucrative gig. No longer being the city manager of Moreno Valley is also a lucrative gig, judging from the payouts given to the last two people to hold the job.

Michelle Dawson made $590,000 in 2018, thanks to a clause in her contract that granted her a full additional year of pay if she were terminated without cause. Her successor, Tom DeSantis, did even better, making $600,000 this year even though he retired in December 2019.

That payout has some Moreno Valley residents wondering just why DeSantis got so much money if he’s the one who decided to leave.

“When you retire, that’s it,” said lifelong Moreno Valley resident Debra Craig. “You get nothing, right?”

Craig has filed a lawsuit in Riverside Superior Court against DeSantis and the city, alleging “a gift of public funds” that was in violation of the law. Regardless of how that case turns out, there are still plenty of unanswered questions about the circumstances surrounding DeSantis’ retirement, and no one at Moreno Valley City Hall is talking.

As an undergrad at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, I spent two months this summer poring over public records and adding up the numbers of DeSantis’ deal. The details are striking.


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Mental Health Peer Support Gains Traction In California

Keris Jän Myrick, chief of peer and allied health professions for L.A. County’s Department of Mental Health. (Robert Garrova/LAist)

L.A.’s mental health peer support services may get a boost in the form of a new law signed by Governor Newsom last week.

The idea behind peer support is simple: people who know what it’s like living with a mental illness helping others with their psychiatric condition. But backers like Keris Jän Myrick, chief of peer and allied health professions for L.A. County’s Department of Mental Health, say it’s time to take the model seriously.

“It’s hard to navigate everything, so [it helps] having somebody who’s been through [it] and they’re kind of like your GPS,” Myrick said.

The new law paves the way to expand the use of peer providers by creating a certification process and opening up the possibility for pilot projects funded by Medi-Cal.


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Morning Briefing: LA, Undercounted

AltaMed's promotora Estuardo Ardon shuffles around with their mobile census kiosk. (Caitlin Hernandez/LAist)

Never miss a morning briefing. Subscribe today to get our A.M. newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Good morning, L.A.

In case you missed it amidst the constant breaking news of late, the U.S. is currently in the throes of the 2020 census. Households across the country are responding so their communities can receive adequate funding for critical resources, such as Medi-Cal, Medicaid, school lunches, highway planning, foster care, and more.

But in L.A., some census workers believe that officials may have prematurely ended efforts to reach thousands of residents, leaving those folks unaccounted for. Melissa Garza, an L.A.-area census supervisor, told my colleague Caroline Champlin that officials gave up on an estimated 30,000 households after only one day of trying to reach them in person.

“If no one was home, then they closed out the attempt,” Garza said. “Or if somebody had a locked gate, they would close that out, so we wouldn’t go back there again.”

This comes in the middle of an epic back-and-forth between the Trump administration and a group of activists who say that the administration is shutting the census count down too early, leaving underserved communities more likely to be overlooked – and less likely to receive needed federal funds.

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.

Jessica P. Ogilvie

Coming Up Today, September 30

As one of the highest paid city managers in California, Tom DeSantis has drawn criticism from Moreno Valley residents after making more than half-a-million dollars after retiring last year. Myra Wu reports for USC's Annenberg Media and KPCC/LAist.

The federal government uses census data to determine funding for Pell grants. Dana Amihere has the story of one local community college student who says a Pell grant helped make a college education possible, which changed her life.

Mike Roe reports on a new book of photography that documents iconic, vintage L.A. locations.

So-called peer respite facilities provide short-term mental health crisis care and are majority-run by peers with lived experience of mental illness. Research indicates they can be a highly effective alternative to hospitalization during crises. Robert Garrova visits one of the two such centers in LA.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

L.A. Kids: The L.A. County Board of Supervisors will allow schools to apply for waivers to resume in-person instruction for students in transitional kindergarten up to second grade. The LAUSD board discussed how to reduce the L.A. School Police budget by 35%. For years, California has funded K-12 schools at rates that lag behind other states — and many educators blame Prop. 13.

Census 2020: Some census workers have sent an email to a federal court saying there were tens of thousands of early case-closings in the L.A. area.

Money Matters: Disney is laying off 28,000 theme park employees in the U.S.— about a quarter of its domestic workforce.

Photo Of The Day

A child is baptized at an outdoor ceremony at the historic Our Lady Queen of Angels (La Placita) Church.

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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This post has been updated to reflect changes in what's coming up for today.


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