Public Servants as CEOs
Joe Mysak takes up the topic of Bell, California’s highly paid public servants:
In his only statement to the press to date, the $787,637 man, [City Manager] Robert Rizzo, told the Los Angeles Times, “If that’s a number people choke on, maybe I’m in the wrong business. I could go into private business and make that money. This council has compensated me for the job I’ve done.”
To which the answer should be, “go right ahead.” One hears this point frequently from highly paid government administrators, and while it’s legitimate to allocate compensation sufficient to attract talented people, it’s also true that candidates for public-sector jobs aren’t necessarily the same as candidates for similar private sector jobs. A school district employee who has risen through the ranks from teacher to principal to superintendent has highly specific experience that may not garner a six-figure salary (plus the equivalent of public sector benefits) in another field.
Of course, as Mysak goes on to relate, the situation in Bell is egregious even so:
“There are darned few $787,000 salaried positions anywhere in the private sector for managers who run an organization of similar size,” said Girard Miller, a public-pension and finance consultant at PFM Group in Los Angeles. Bell has 80 full-time employees, according to its latest financial report.
Unfortunately, while Bell is extreme, the reality is that government has become so broad, complicated, and pervasive that few citizens care to keep tabs on such matters to the extent necessary. The only rational response, in my view, would be to shrink it and limit its responsibilities.