Sellers and Diridon Received Illegal Raises in the Past, But Sellers Still Wants Another Salary Bump

By Robert Haugh

Police Chief Mike Sellers made almost $443,000 in total compensation in 2016 and he wants a raise of at least $37,000 annually, according to some info we got from city staff.¹

In 2016, he was the 7th highest compensated police chief in California, according to Transparent California.

But Sellers is also the first police chief in Santa Clara history to get a “no confidence” vote from his own department.

He’s also the led a department that has had problems with officer conduct recently and paid out the two highest settlements in the city’s history.

That might be enough of a story to file this in the “Are You Serious?” column. But the story gets better — or worse.

Sellers got raises in the past. But they were technically illegal. Or to use city speak “at variance with state laws.” That’s right: illegal. City Hall sent out a press release yesterday that explains it this way:

It became apparent to the City Attorney and the City Manager that the many past practices and procedures for setting the compensation of the Chief of Police and the City Clerk were at variance with state laws and with the practices of other jurisdictions that set elected officials’ compensation.

It has become clear that certain Human Resource internal controls were not strong and thus compensation adjustments were provided to the Chief despite the City Attorney’s direction not to implement without proper Council authorization.

¹ EDITOR’S NOTE: The city gave us figures for Sellers’ salary plus additional money for peace officer training certificates. We’re still waiting for benefits and pension figures that we’ll have to report later.

City of Santa Clara press release addressing the allegedly past illegal salary raises of the elected Police Chief and elected City Clerk. The Santa Clara City Council will address the item at tonight’s meting.

It looks like former City Manager Julio Fuentes and Acting City Manager Rajeev Batra with the assistance of Human Resource Director Liz Brown gave Sellers and former City Clerk Rod Diridon, Jr. cost of living adjustments and merit increases in violation of state law. We’re still trying to figure out how much money is at stake here and will do that for a future column.

Sellers will be in attendance at the City Council meeting tonight to make his case for himself. This should be interesting. How do you make the case that:  “Well okay, my previous raises were illegal … but you should give me another anyway?”

Since Diridon got the illegal raises, too, we emailed both Sellers and Diridon if they would return the money. We emailed the question late yesterday, so we’ll  print their responses when we get them.

By the way, Sellers has served his entire career in Santa Clara.  This will be his 33rd year. Many in the department believe he’ll retire soon and he won’t run for re-election in 2020. He beat Sergeant Pat Nikolai in 2016 by the closest margin in Santa Clara election history.

How the council responds should be interesting. We know at least one council member who thinks top city staff gets paid too highly.

Councilman Dominic Caserta made a major stink against the the salaries for new City Manager Deanna Santana and new City Attorney Brian Doyle when they were hired. In fact, he voted against them.

We almost forgot about this, but some sources in a rival political camp sent us a reminder about Caserta vs. Doyle.

Stay tuned. We think we’ll be writing a lot more about this.

Mike Sellers Rod Diridon, Jr.
Santa Clara Police Chief Mike Sellers (left) and Santa Clara City Clerk Rod Diridon, Jr. (right) each allegedly received illegal raises in the past; Sellers wants another salary bump.


  1. You are right MikeOH it isn’t an indictment of the Chief or Clerk but an indictment of the guy who was City attorney in 2015. Obviously, he didn’t direct the cmte well. Glad he is gone too.

  2. Reading through the 7 attachments to item 18-324 which was put forward by the CM and CA re the compensations, this is not an indictment of either the Chief of Police or the City Clerk. Errors were made in HR re suppositions and implementation, but the “illegal” part was re public disclosure on the part of the Council, in particular, the Salary Review Committee in 2015 comprised of 3 Council members, including now-Mayor Gillmor. Although the Committee made their (raises) recommendations to the Council in public session, their own meetings were held in closed session vs. public. Those should have been public, with public notice, in cases of elected positions. …as I read it all.

  3. My comments weren’t intended as a knock on Sellers, but rather a knock on poor business practice. Fine with him, his outreach & accessibility & the dept he leads. He won the election no matter how close. Just think he should take some vacation. The whole retirement, pension, unfunded liabilities is a problem. Govt, including our City, needs to get on top of it. …& taking vacation time is good business practice. …& someone needs to know/learn how to cover when the Chief is not available (and I’m sure there is). It should be a point of discussion and this is an opportunity.

  4. Robert, Why am I not surprised. During Sellers election, its clear that most the people of Santa Clara are not happy about the job he is doing. And he thinks he should be rewarded for that ? The raises were illegal and should be made to pay it back.

  5. “Received illegal raises” sounds sensational, but it certainly brings forward process questions. It will be interesting to hear the Council’s discussion. Note that this same Council approved Chief Sellers accruing vacation hours over the established cap. That should have raised department management issues then. Has that issue been resolved? Has the accrual been brought back under the cap? I.e., has Chief Sellers been able to take vacation. If not, why not? Since the City will have to buy back vacation time at what is then the current salary rate, this is a legitimate item for discussion, though perhaps not a deciding factor.

  6. With the hiring of new city staff, I thought things were cleaned up. I see that there’s still a lot of cleaning to do. Let’s hope they keep it up.

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