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Council to examine salary survey results before public release

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Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2002 10:00 pm

Results from the taxpayer-funded salary survey are in - but the Lodi City Council is refusing public review of the survey until council members first examine it.

In July, the council approved paying a private Roseville-based firm, Personnel Concepts, up to $50,000 to survey and compare the salaries of municipal employees in cities similar in size to Lodi.

The City Council decided to proceed with the survey after about 50 police and fire department employees joined representatives of other departments in July at Carnegie Forum to support the idea of looking into salaries citywide.

Although City Manager Dixon Flynn received a copy of the completed survey last week, he said council members asked him not to release the results of the survey until they review and discuss them.

"That's the direction the council unanimously gave staff," Mayor Phil Pennino said Wednesday. "We asked the city attorney's guidance and he gave the go-ahead to do it this way."

Council members are scheduled to discuss the survey results at a closed-door session Tuesday at which time the council is expected to approve the release of the information.

Councilman Keith Land said Tuesday's meeting will be the first opportunity the council has to review the results.

He said the council and Flynn should double-check the numbers before releasing the survey results to the public.

"We just want to make sure everything is done right before we release it," Land said. "We don't know if it's complete, including everything we asked to be in it. It will be available, real quick, to everyone."

He said the release would come sometime after Tuesday's meeting, but declined to elaborate.

Councilman Alan Nakanishi agreed the council is not sure what it's going to do with the information.

"I think if you were a manager, you'd probably want to see the information before the employees," he said.

Land said the survey was scheduled to be discussed in open session at next week's council meeting. But Deputy City Manager Janet Keeter said it was not placed on the draft agenda, as of Wednesday, though it could still be added.

Attorney Jim Ewert of the California Newspaper Publishers Association, an authority on the state's open-meeting laws, said the city's position is without merit.

"They can only withhold documents if they are preliminary drafts - and they're going to trash them - until the final product is created," he said.

However, Flynn said the information is, in fact, still in draft form because the council has not approved it. Council members may want to alter the cities surveyed or change the way the information is published, he said.

Ewert said council members would also have to show cause that releasing the information to the public causes greater harm than not disclosing it, although that's not a legal justification for withholding information.

Flynn said the information "could cause some concern."

"It could upset employees because the information needs to be validated," he said.

Pennino cited issues with prematurely releasing the salary figures to the public while contract negotiations are going on behind closed doors. However, the city is in contract talks with only two bargaining groups cited in the survey - mid-management staff and employees from the city's Electric Utility.

The survey, which Flynn said cost $22,000, examines total compensation in cities of similar size with projected figures as of January 2003.

Although there are 460 Lodi city employees and 169 job classifications, the survey compares only 80 to 90 of those classifications, Lodi Human Resources Director Joanne Narloch said.

Flynn said most employee groups have had similar surveys completed within the last five years.

Narloch has said she hopes council members will adopt a policy to set salaries either at or above the median range after they review the survey results.

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