By Roz Rogoff
Surprise, Surprise!Uploaded: Dec 25, 2010
Last August I asked Herb Moniz if he was planning to retire. This was right after the news of his high salary hit the media, and Mayor Abram Wilson, who was running for State Assembly, made a speech at the end of a City Council meeting defending Herb's salary.
Herb told me he was not planning to retire any time soon, "I love my job," he said.
Two weeks ago I interviewed Mr. Moniz. I reported the interview in my San Ramon Observer Blog dated December 8, 2010. I asked him about his salary, his benefits, and his potential pension. At no point in this interview did Mr. Moniz hint that he was considering retiring.
Yesterday I saw stories in the Contra Costa Times and San Ramon Patch that Herb Moniz announced he would retire when his contract with the City comes up for renewal in March, 2011. I was shocked, and rather disappointed that Moniz and City staff gave this news to other media outlets and not me. So I emailed Herb yesterday asking why.
You didn't say anything about retiring in our interview a couple of weeks ago. This seems to have come on rather suddenly. What's the real story and how come you didn't let me know too?
He replied later that night,
"Merry Christmas!! It's a very personal decision and I have thought about it for 4 years. I just got up one morning and thought it was the right time so I did it. I let the CC know.... And that's all.
No big story, just another chapter coming to a close. Herb"
I knew he thought about it. He told me back in 2004 when he was rehired by the City that he planned to stay two years and then retire. He was waiting to get the City Center started. Since the City Center kept being delayed, he stayed, or so I thought.
Herb said, "No big story." Yes it is. It's a very big story for San Ramon. It's also a shame that Moniz is being so vilified for his salary and benefits. I suspect whoever is hired to replace him will have another employee promoted to Assistant City Manager, so the total budget for managing the City will be the same or more.
In one of the other blog threads I explained how the City Council majority elected in 2001 spent over $2,000,000 on plans for a Civic Center that would have cost over $160,000,000 to build and another $2,000,000 a year to maintain. This is the same majority that fired Moniz in 2002.
The new City Manager they hired, Gail Waiters, didn't have any experience as a City Manager. She was one of two or three Assistant City Managers for Oakland. When the economy took a brief dip during the dot-com bubble of 2002-2003, she crumbled under the pressure.
The Gang of Three, as the Contra Costa Times labeled the slow-growth majority on the City Council at that time, spent money without having a clue how to keep the City solvent, and the Interim Finance Director said the City was in a structural deficit that could lead to bankruptcy.
Two of the three, Nancy Tatarka and Donna Dickey, chose not to run for reelection in 2003, and Jerry Cambra resigned in early 2004. Carol Rowley and Scott Perkins were elected in 2003, and Jim Livingstone was appointed to fill Cambra's vacancy, which made up the Council we have today.
Gail Waiters did two things right before she was let go by the new City Council in 2004. She hired Greg Rogers as Finance Director and Cheryl Mitchell Wade as Personnel Manager. Both of these employees are still with the City and doing great jobs. Rogers is probably the most likely replacement for Moniz if someone is promoted from within.
Moniz was brought back by the newly elected City Council and brought the City expenses back under control. If the biggest expense is staff salaries, then that is more than made up for by the tight ship Moniz ran, maximizing revenues for services and cutting waste.
He built up reserves of $30M, but then reallocated $24M to accounts to keep the State from raiding our treasury. This lead some reports to say that San Ramon's reserves are much less than claimed, but I was at the meeting when these were reallocated, so I know exactly where they went and why.
In fact if you consider that Moniz saved the City the expense of building the Civic Center for $160M, it would take 450 years at $360K a year to equal the amount of money Herb saved the City. Even the $24M Herb tucked away for a financial rainy day would add up to more than 66 years at $360K, so Herb's salary is looking like a pittance by comparison.
The attacks on Moniz over the last six months are little more than jealousy and spitefulness. The people making these attacks know very little about how San Ramon is run and make some ridiculous assumption that all cities of the same size are identical, so San Ramon's salaries should be based entirely on comparisons to other cities. I suggest that those people move to those other cities, where they would be much happier and have nothing to complain about.