Irvine City Manager John Russo is worth every penny of his contract — just ask him and he’ll tell you. He’s not but never misses a chance to enrich himself or his Riverside team at the expense of Irvine taxpayers.
Tonight (Tuesday September 10), Russo goes before the Irvine City Council seeking about $24,000 in extra compensation for his work as executive director of the Great Park. This is about an 8% raise the city manager wants to give himself after a little more than a year of work in Irvine with a base salary of $303K plus benefits. And after an attempt to enrich his assistant city manager with a $50,000+ raise which was knocked down to 9% after we reported about it.
The argument is Russo has cut management positions in his department and the people he’s hired are doing two jobs therefore are entitled to extra compensation. That argument falls apart because productivity would also decline by as much as 100% because even the most productive of managers might be able to handle an extra 10% workload.
All this, while rank and file city workers get squat. I believe city workers get a 1% raise in a couple of years. Sort of insulting given the tenure of some excellent staffers at city hall who have significant institutional knowledge of the city. It fits Russo’s profile of rewarding those loyal to him and has created an unhealthy work environment in Irvine City Hall.
But the Irvine City Council should heed and question Russo about his upcoming court case over his contract as Riverside City Manager and how he managed to hide certain aspects of that contract from the public — and in some cases, the city council he worked for. And they should ask him about his pending trial in Riverside for charges of Unlawful Gift of Public Funds and Violation of the City Charter, California Municipal Code and the State of California Constitution. The trial will be held November 22 in Riverside Superior Court.
The nut of the trial are claims from the City of Riverside that Russo started re-negotiating his contract after he served only half of it and added the contract changes on a meeting agenda at an odd time to throw off the public. There’s a suggestion that the Irvine City Council members who were seated when Russo was hired may be aware of this, but it’s important to note that three members of the council took office after Russo’s appointment. The lawsuit document is here.
Couple of juicy details in here include #13-19 and #30-32. Hard to copy a PDF, so please review the file.
While in Riverside, Russo was able to get a 1% mortgage funded by the city for $675,000; I have to wonder if he took any equity out of the house after it was granted. There are still tips from City employees that Russo leaves early and has use of a city car during the day in spite of having a car allowance.