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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)
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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?”

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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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