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.
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.