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Is Irvine About to Have the Highest Paid Assistant City Manager in California? A $51K Raise in New Budget


See the second line for Assistant City Manager; this reflects the revised new salary for Marysheva

Sources tell TheLiberalOC that the City of Irvine may be facing a significant budget shortfall that might be much higher than previously suggested. And in the wake of this development, City Manager John Russo is recommending a significant raise for Assistant City Manager Marianna Marysheva while the hardworking and long serving city staff gets1% which is basically nothing.

Based on documents sent to TheLiberalOC, Marysheva’s salary will increase from $255,598 to $307,248 – a nearly 17% increase of $51,650 which is a little less than the entire city council makes combined. The city manager’s salary and other senior manager’s will be getting a contractual salary increase as well. If the Irvine City Council approves this budget, Marysheva just might be the highest paid Assistant City Manager in California.

By contrast, Sean Joyce – the city’s previous city manager – made just over $300K just 18 months ago. Additionally, we’re told Marysheva is asking for additional benefits in the form of more time off.

Sources tell TheLiberalOC that city staff has been warned that the projected budget shortfall could be as high as $12 to $15 million and Russo initially called for 10% cuts across the board including city support for Irvine schools.  That cut isn’t happening, thanks to the city council members. Fees are being increased for non-profits and community sports organizations and even with that, city manager Russo has rewarded his Riverside team richly for joining him in Irvine.

The salary increase for Marysheva—who hasn’t been with the city for a year — on top of already generous pay and benefits, at a time when there’s a significant projected budget shortfall is foolish and should be rescinded. Frankly, if the deficit is that bad, perhaps the city council ought to rescind any raise until the budget deficit is resolved. There’s an argument being made that the city manager’s team is smaller and there are doing more work with fewer people; that said, going from two assistant city managers to one doesn’t justify the much higher cost of the one salary.

My sources in Riverside, home to Mr. Russo’s last run as a city manager, say he did the same thing there and if it goes through and Marysheva is richly rewarded, he’ll be lobbying for a big salary increase for himself next budget cycle – if not before.

Last week, TheLiberalOC filed a lengthy PRA based on a two page letter sent to us that goes beyond the Q&A the city manager’s office has online here:   From that page:

Staff reductions are occurring or will soon be occurring in these departments as a result of vacancies or anticipated vacancies. Existing employees will be doing more work. For example, in the City Manager’s Office there is now one Assistant City Manager instead of two, the City Manager is also serving as the Great Park Director, and three out of eight support positions have been eliminated. Similarly, in Community Development and Community Services existing work is being reassigned to remaining staff after positions are eliminated due to retirements or otherwise employee departures.

Great. One person instead of two means maybe 60% of the work that used to be getting done is getting done but it doesn’t warrant a gargantuan bump in pay.

But this page doesn’t address the questions the anonymous note prompted me to ask.

There still appear to be issues with contractual car allowances and local transportation for Russo and his team to and from the train station (in Tustin or Irvine) to their homes in Riverside. There are issues about per diem expenses, time off, and whether or not the new office of Economic Development is providing any sort of status reports. Economic Development is a best effort service – is there any track record of success yet? And this is something the Irvine Chamber of Commerce has done for years with support from City Hall, but there was never a need for a paid city staff position for this function.

I’ve asked for a lot of information; the public city budget isn’t the easiest document to track stuff down. But I’m glad the city manager’s office thinks this is transparency.

The biggest issue is the culture of fear at City Hall (hence the anonymous — but trustworthy — sources). The budget staff looks like they are getting a bump in pay, but no one else is. During the economic downturn of 10 years ago, staff received no raises, did significant extra work due to a hiring freeze, and didn’t cut services to residents. This administration is all about making more money and asking for more time off.

As new council member Mike Carroll has a background in finance, it’s prudent for the city council to delay a vote on this budget and certainly make a significant reduction in the proposed increase to Marysheva’s compensation to be more in line with her contract.


  1. Fred Bailey Fred Bailey June 5, 2019

    The city council is going to raise the fees for our kids to play in little league, but the city manager and his assitant are getting raises? A $51,000 raise for the assistant? What the hell is going on over there? They all should be fired over this. IF the council knew about this, they should resign and be voted out and if they didn’t then the city manager should be fired. Hot mess in Irvine.

  2. #ReplaceRusso #ReplaceRusso June 6, 2019

    Instead of working to help the city of Irvine, I guarantee most of his time and energy is spent working on deals to enrich himself and his friends. We’ve seen it happen before. Power hungry, greedy slickster who can’t be trusted to manage any city and is always looking for ways to get his hands on more of our tax dollars. #ReplaceRusso

  3. G. Dittmer G. Dittmer June 7, 2019

    In the Trump (oso) era, it is clear that all corrupted behavior is tolerated. Irvine should demand that the pay raises be rescinded. Not only the city council approved the construction of over 1,000 homes not long ago (on top of the previously 3400) which brings an enormous amount of tax revenue. There is not budget constraint, this is a set up from the City Council to most likely, again approve the over building of more homes by 5 Point builder, in an already congested, polluted city. By reducing jobs from experienced employees they figure there will be not resistance or disclosure. Don’t allow corruption!

    • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | June 7, 2019

      The argument Russo will make is that one assistant city manager’s position was eliminated and Marysheva is doing the jobs of two people. From a business productivity standpoint, that isn’t close to being true. Marysheav might be able to put in 10-15% more time to make up for the one person/not two argument, but nowhere near the productivity of twp people doing the job. You cannot get addition through subtraction. This is simply Russo’s people profiting from the taxpayers at a time when there’s a legitimate budget issue in Irvine. By researching Russo in Riverside and Marysheva’s work in Mammoth and Redlands (where she dated and married her boss and withheld this from the city council until they were caught), I don’t think these are the right people to be managing the function of a city like Irvine. Character counts and these two are characters when it comes to lining pockets. Let me know what time you see Russo and his team at the train station today. I’m guessing they’ll be waiting for a mid-afternoon return home to Riverside trip.

      • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | June 7, 2019

        There’s a 3:44 PM train from Tustin arriving in downtown Riverside at 4:57 PM! Or a 4:12 PM getting into Riverside at 5:17PM; same trains leave Irvine station a little sooner. Since Russo told me — in our only phone call — he’s in the office at 7AM most days, there’s a 5:39 AM and 6:16 AM train from downtown Riverside that gets into Tustin at 6:44 and 7:18 AM. There’s no super late train out of Tustin on meeting nights, so Russo has to drive then. Good thing he has that car allowance.

      • ConcernedinNOC ConcernedinNOC June 7, 2019

        This is much the same argument you hear in Fullerton, where the City Manager is leaving dozens of positions vacant. He’s dumping more work on fewer and fewer employees, and turnover is through the roof–close to 30% over the last year from what I hear. “You cannot get addition through subtraction” truer words were never written.

  4. MakesNoSense MakesNoSense June 7, 2019

    More money to do more work.
    But then, more time off. So more money for doing same, or less work?

    Nice move.

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