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Vernon, Bell's Neighbor, Also Has Sky High Salaries

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What's up southeastern L.A. County? First there was Bell, which was paying its part time city council about $100,000 a year and it's city manager nearly $800,000, which added to his total compensation of $1.5 million a year. The L.A. Times broke that story and now they've found sketchy salaries in neighboring Vernon.

Eric T. Fresch double dipped as the city's top administrator and as a city attorney, earning $1.64 million in 2008 and $1.2 last year. So far this year, he's earned $643,000 only as "outside legal counsel." Another official, Donal O'Callaghan, was paid $785,000 last year to do both city administrator duties and power utility management.

And that's not it. The former city attorney earned $800,000 last year and $1.04 million the year before. The City Treasurer/Finance Director earned $570,000 in 2009. City Councilmembers receive $68,052 a year, which is one of the highest in L.A. County.

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How many people live in Vernon? 100. The city is most devoted to business and industry and has a scandalous past. Compare that to Bell, which has a population of 38,000, many who are immigrants.

Vernon officials defended their salaries. "If people think that I am a city guy making that kind of money, they would have every right to be outraged," French told the Times. "I'm not trying to say that municipal compensation should be at the level that I'm doing. I'm saying that if you bring a guy like me in, and do transactions for several hundred million dollars, this would not be out-of-line compensation."

Ken Pulskamp, president of the City Manager's Department of the League of California Cities and city manager of Santa Clarita, L.A. County's 4th largest city, did not agree. "Typically, city managers have some expertise in some area whether that be finance or personnel or one of the other departments," he said. "Typically that is just part of being a city manager — you don't get paid extra for that type of expertise."