SB City Attorney’s & City Clerk’s Victory On Salary Reduction Issue To Be Challenged

Three months after the San Bernardino City Council moved to cut the pay of two of its elected city officials and roughly a month after a Superior Court Judge nixed that cost-cutting move, the city council on Wednesday night voted to appeal that ruling.
In 2016, San Bernardino voters passed Measure L, which dispensed with the city’s original charter adopted in 1905. The new charter reduced the mayor’s administrative authority and designated both the city attorney and city clerk positions as appointed rather than elected ones. City Attorney Gary Saenz and City Clerk Georgeann Hanna, who in 2015 had both been reelected to terms ending at midnight March 31, 2020, were still entitled by law to remain in their elected posts until the expiration of their terms.
In June, the city council voted, with council members Ted Sanchez, Juan Figueroa, Henry Nickel and Bessine Richards prevailing and council members Sandra Ibarra, Fred Shorett and Jim Mulvihill dissenting, to reduce Saenz’s and Hanna’s pay over the final nine months they will be in office. Saenz was formerly getting  $246,266 in total annual compensation as city attorney, including salary, benefits and add-ons, and Hanna was receiving $171,466 in total annual compensation as city clerk, including salary, benefits and additional pay.
The council voted to reduce the $184,700 Saenz was scheduled to receive between July 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020 to $100,000 and cut the $128,600 Hanna was scheduled to get over the same nine-month span to $52,500. Thereafter, Saenz and Hanna hired the firm of Wagner & Pelayes to represent them, challenging the pay cut.
Judge David Cohn on August 16 ruled that the city did not have the legal authority to reduce the pay that had been current for the positions Saenz and Hanna hold at the time they were elected and he ordered the city to restore them to their previous remuneration levels.
In a closed session on Wednesday, the council took up the question of whether to abide by Cohn’s ruling or challenge it. Nickel reversed his position from his vote in June, voting along with Shorett and Mulvihill against appealing Cohn’s decision. Ibarra, however, was not present, and so the council deadlocked 3-to-3, with Sanchez, Figueroa and Richard favoring making the appeal. As mayor, John Valdivia is not empowered to vote on most matters. However, he does possess tie-braking authority. Valdivia voted to make the appeal of Cohn’s ruling.
The decision was announced by Assistant City Attorney Sonia Carvalho after the council initiated its public session on Wednesday night following the conclusion of the panel’s closed session.

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