For every month that Galt Mayor Barbara Payne attends a Sacramento Area Council of Governments meeting, she receives $100. She gets the same taxpayer-funded stipend for attending the monthly meetings of the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District.
Fellow City Councilman Mike Singleton also earns $100 from the Sacramento County Local Agency Formation Commission each month — and will do so through 2014.
That's on top of their annual salaries of $3,600 as council members.
Sacramento County boards pay elected city officials thousands of tax dollars in stipends per year. While they don't tally up to a huge amount of money, similar stipends are relatively rare in San Joaquin County.
Bob Blymyer, Sacramento Taxpayers Association spokesman, said the compensation issue deserves investigation. He has served on at least a dozen boards while working and since retiring, and can only recall payments of $50 per meeting for one of them.
But Payne said the combined $2,400 she receives annually for serving on the two paid county boards goes toward the time to drive both to and from Sacramento to attend meetings and approve each agency's budgets on an annual basis.
"Their agendas are usually much bigger than a city council meeting agenda," she said. "So in comparison to the time and commitment to sit on the boards, $100 a meeting seems in line."
Dozens of boards
Galt-area Supervisor Don Nottoli could not explain the disparity between Sacramento County, where stipends are awarded more frequently, and San Joaquin County, where they are not. But he believes the practice of paying Sacramento County commission and board members goes back 20-plus years to when there were fewer incorporated cities to draw from.
"It's interesting how you cross county lines, and it's so different," he said.
Each agency's bylaws require a certain number of board members, and to achieve that, the agencies began paying representatives as the number of incorporated cities increased and the boards expanded.
"Some of it's a carryover from 20 or 25 years ago," Nottoli said.
Sacramento County board and commission members who are also on the Board of Supervisors, such as Nottoli, do not receive a stipend as it is factored into their salaries. This includes service on the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, the Local Agency Formation Commission and the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District.
In San Joaquin County, there are 61 active boards and commissions including regional boards, representing at least 529 member positions. Of those boards, 14 offer compensation of $25 to $100 per meeting plus mileage/travel expenses, according to a survey by the San Joaquin County Taxpayers Association, a local advocacy group.
But others, such as the San Joaquin Council of Governments, where members are elected officials, do not offer compensation.
Andrew Chesley, SJCOG's executive director, said the idea of compensation gets brought up to him every three or four years or so, but there is never any interest on the part of the board to institute stipends.
"We don't even pay them mileage for attending board meetings," Chesley said in an email.
Lodi Councilman Larry Hansen is among those who has never received a stipend for his more than 8-year tenure on SJCOG. He has also served on the Northern California Power Agency since 2002 without compensation. He is also the current chair of the Highway 12 Corridor Task Force and sits on two sub-committees for the county's Council of Governments without pay.
"These are very demanding assignments, but I do not believe that there should be a stipend for attending those commission meetings," Hansen said. "I receive a stipend and health insurance benefits for my service on the city council, and as far as I'm concerned that includes all collateral assignments."
He's not alone. No Lodi City Council members receive stipends for any of the San Joaquin County boards and commissions they serve on, according to city clerk Randi Johl.
Representing other jurisdictions
Stipends have become more visible under a new state law. The Fair Political Practices Commission require cities to post a form online if their city council members receive more than $250 in compensation over a 12-month period for serving on an external board, and how much they receive.
It was studied after several Southern California cities brought to the attention of the FPPC earlier this year that there could be a financial conflict of interest when an official seeks to appoint himself or herself to one or more paid positions.
As of May, FPPC requires each agency to post on its website a copy of Form 806, which reports the additional compensation when officials hold paid positions on other boards, commissions or committees of public agencies, special districts or joint power agencies/authorities.
Mileage reimbursement, travel payment and other pay does not have to be reported, according to the FPPC.
To get the word out, the FPPC contacted the League of California Cities and the City Clerks Association, spokeswoman Tara Stock said in an email.
A 152-page document posted on Sacramento County's website details each board and commission, including how appointments are made and who the current members are as of Sept. 30, when they meet, whether or not members must file a financial disclosure, and the total compensation for each board.
The disclosures, however, must be posted on the website of the recipient; in Galt, for example, the documents can be found on the city council page at www.ci.galt.ca.us. A quick search on other Sacramento County city websites did not locate the information.
Stock said Friday that cities seem to be complying, although some of the forms may be hard to find online at this time.
"Many cities make the appointments in January and this form wasn't implemented until later in the year, so it is likely that more cities will be posting the forms in January or February," she said.
In addition to the $100 per diem received by members of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, some receive mileage to travel to the meetings, according to spokesman Eric Johnson. That, however, is set by the policies of the representative's board.
Blymyer, the Sacramento County taxpayer advocate, doesn't see the stipend as out of line, especially since Payne drives from Galt to Sacramento to attend those meetings.
"It seems to be a small amount of money when it comes to how much money government deals with," he said.
Payne pointed out that, as a representative on the Council of Governments board, she is voting on issues that cover a six-county area, including county and city issues. The Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District is also responsible for the entire county enforcement.
"So not only are we there to represent our jurisdiction, but others as well," Payne said. "Whenever you are voting on issues, it also involves being available to listen and talk to citizens and businesses with opinions on the issues."
Fellow councilman Mark Crews is an alternate on two paid county boards, while he and Vice Mayor Marylou Powers also serve on three other county boards but do not receive compensation.
"Would I represent Galt and make the drive to Sacramento whether or not I got paid? Of course I would," Payne said, adding that she also serves on boards without receiving a monthly stipend, including the First 5 Advisory Committee, and in the past has served on the Sacramento County Library Board and Sacramento Transportation Authority.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.