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Salary ‘double dipping’ raises concerns

Despite managers claiming salary and retirement, Rocklin saving $650,000
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Retirement deals for five top managers of the city of Rocklin aimed at saving the city money are raising some concerns. Rocklin City Manager Carlos Urrutia said he has nothing to hide. “I’m getting two salaries,” Urrutia said. “Right now, I am drawing my pension and I am working for the city of Rocklin.” While he said it looks like double dipping, he isn’t doing anything improper. Police Chief Mark Siemens, Assistant City Manager Terry Richardson, Chief Building Official Pete Guisasola, Senior Engineer Jee Choy and Urrutia all agreed to retire early and come back on a part-time basis to save the city nearly $650,000 in salary. “I talked them into doing it,” Urrutia said. “These guys are retiring anyway in a couple of years. It saves us from laying off five police officers.” Urrutia said he is looking for more savings when Assistant City Manager Terry Richardson retires June 30 and his position is frozen. Rocklin resident Elaine O’Deegan said the creative accounting concerns her. “Our city manager will be getting a very sweet deal at the expense of the taxpayers,” O’Deegan said. For example, Urrutia retired in December but is working part-time on a contract basis for nearly $137,000 a year. Because he is retired, he also gets state medical insurance and his pension worth $170,000 a year (75 percent of his $230,000 annual wage), according to Urrutia. His total take home could break $307,000 this year, some $77,000 more than he made working full time last year. “This is double dipping at its finest.” O’Deegan said. “It all comes out of the same pot and the bottom line is the tax payers are taking the hit.” Urrutia said the pension money belongs to him whether he works part time for the city or any other side job. “Yeah, part of it was taxpayers’ money,” Urrutia said. “It was put there on my behalf but that was part of my compensation.” He said by working 24 hours a week now, he saves the city $93,000 this fiscal year and by retiring early he will miss out on two years of full salary that was originally contracted and approved by the city council. “I would have had more years of service,” Urrutia said. “I voluntarily did this because I saw it as a way to save money for the city and it didn’t hurt me. Nobody was forced to retire. We did the math and decided to live with it.” Rocklin Mayor Scott Yuill said the council did the business analysis and couldn’t pass up the savings. “It’s a wise financial strategy for Rocklin, much needed during its worst economic condition, and available only because of the retirements,” Yuill said.  Wally Reemelin, president of the League of Placer County Taxpayers said the unusual plan shows how upside down the system has become. “The government is on one side and the people are on the other,” Reemelin said. “The people in power are incompetent because they are allowing the double pay to go on. I think citizens should think about electing some new people to the city council.” O’Deegan said she wants the city to consider saving money by sweeping the managers out. “With the huge pool of unemployed professionals, I am sure our city can find qualified people to take these positions at substantially less wages, instead of allowing five highly paid Rocklin city leaders to take advantage of the system and the taxpayers,” O’Deegan said. Urrutia said the notion is unrealistic. “No. There are no qualified people who are willing to work as the Rocklin city manager for $100,000 a year,” Urrutia said. “Next year when (the city) hires a full-time city manager, they are going to be paying them $200,000 plus benefits.” Yuill said some savings to the city are intangible as both the police chief and city manger, are actively assisting in the hiring of their replacements.