Berkeley fire officials earn more than many city employees

If you are looking for a job in Berkeley, steer clear of City Hall. Instead, head on over to the fire or police department. They pay way more.

In an analysis of public employee salaries, the Bay Area Newspaper Group determined that at least 35 fire and police officials make more than most of City Hall’s top managers, including the Director of Planning and the Director of Public Works. Only City Manager Phil Kamlarz is in the uppermost echelon.

The highest paid city employee in 2010 was Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Revilla, who grossed $302,352, according to BANG. While his base salary was $164,407, he earned the rest in overtime and other payments. (And that figure does not include health or pension benefits. BANG was not able to get that information from Berkeley.)

The next highest paid employee was Howard Nonoguchi, a police sergeant who made $271,365 with salary and overtime. I wonder how that makes Police Chief Michael Meehan feel? He only earned $203,680, according to the BANG analysis. He even seems to have taken a pay cut last year.

Kamlarz is the third highest paid city employee with a take home pay of $240,759, according to the BANG survey.

The next 30 or so rankings are all police officers or fire officials. Then comes a curious one. James Kelekian, the executive director of the Rent Board, took home $183,883 last year. That’s $400 more than Dan Marks, the director of planning, earned. But Kelekian’s salary is set by the Rent Board, not City Hall.

BANG’s numbers differ from 2009 salary figures compiled recently by State Controller John Chiang. And those variations are important to note, said Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, the city spokesman. The numbers can come out differently depending on which questions are posed.

For example the supposed highest-paid city employee, Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Revilla? He retired in 2010 and cashed out his vacation and sick leave, which may be why his salaries is skewed so high, said Clunies-Ross. State Controller John Chiang’s figures also showed the same thing. Chiang’s report showed that the former Berkeley Police Chief Douglas Hambleton made $371,130 in 2009, significantly more than Meehan’s current salary. But he retired that year and the payment reflected his accrued vacation and sick leave.

The Bay Area Newspaper Group wanted to get more detailed information from Berkeley about pension benefits, uniform allowances, bilingual pay, and payouts of sick leave and vacation for all of the city employees. Berkeley wanted to charge $2,730 for the staff time to calculate those numbers, as permitted under the state’s Public Records Act. BANG declined to pay, as Kamlarz explained in a March 2011 to City Council.

Berkeley city salaries track neighbors closely [03.16.11]

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...