Critics Confront Pat Meyering About Council Compensation

Pat Meyering, the Sunnyvale city councilman who’s the target of a recall effort, has repeatedly accused his colleagues of enriching themselves on the public dime.

Since being appointed to office in 2012, the city official and self-employed attorney has painted himself as a watchdog for public interests, denigrating his peers as fat cats who take money from developers and vote for their own pay increases.

In reality, Meyering takes home the second-highest compensation of anyone on the council: $64,000 in salary and benefits since taking office 18 months ago. And voters, not the council, approve pay increases for public officials.

Only Councilman Dave Whittum made more—$86,682 since the start of 2013—because he included most of his family under the health plan. Mayor Jim Griffith, who makes a show of declining cost-of-living increases, makes the least, just $39,807 during that same time.

Here’s the full list, provided after a public records request by Peter Cirigliano, a leader of the recall effort:

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Armed with that tally, Cirigliano confronted Meyering about his compensation at the city’s July 15 council meeting. During the public comment period, Cirigliano says he was surprised to learn that Meyering, for all his railing on other council members about their take-home pay, makes more than most of them. And since the council voted to move elections to odd years, which added a year to Meyering's tenure, he will only have to serve one term to reach the five-year minimum to qualify for lifetime benefits.

Here’s video of the exchange, which gets pretty terse when Meyering fires back that he’s “never taken a $64,000 salary from the city of Sunnyvale, that’s a false statement.” (Sure, it wasn’t a $64,000 “salary.” But it was indeed $64,000 in total compensation, as Cirigliano noted.)

Meyering continues, implying that other council members convinced Cirigliano to speak and accusing them, again, of being bought and paid for by developers.

“There is no basis for you to say that any council member here had anything to do with this speaker coming forward,” Griffith counters, sounding flustered.

The Sunnyvale council censured Meyering more than a year ago for his bellicose behavior, including aggressive theatrics and those incessant accusations of corruption. Word is, his antics drove city manager Gary Luebbers into early retirement and city attorney David Kahn on to another job.

Meanwhile, he cost the city $83,000 in legal fees over a personal injury lawsuit. The day after being sworn, Meyering claims to have tripped and fallen on Morse Avenue sidewalk. He filed a $8,500 claim with the city, which was denied, and promptly sued for damages. A judge later dismissed the lawsuit.

Meyering critics say the damage he costs is more than a dollar amount, though.

"It used to be that Sunnyvale was like Harvard—everybody wanted to work there," says Chris Moylan, an ex-councilman whose term overlapped for a couple years with Meyering's. "Now it's like a safety school. He's really hurt this city. He's hurt our reputation and he continues to hurt it every day he's in office."

Meyering, who did not immediately return calls and an email requesting comment, does have a small band of supporters. One of them, retired software engineer Chuck Clark, said he's only met Meyering briefly one or two times but decided to create a website dedicated to his defense.

The site, BeFair.info, depicts Meyering as a persecuted pariah speaking out against a shameless pro-developer majority. It compares the first-term councilman to Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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"Why is it that these people are so intent on getting him out of office?" Clark told San Jose Inside. "The answer is that there’s a struggle going on between pro-developer and non pro-developer people. Pat is not in favor of unlimited development. His only crime, really, is being disruptive."

The recall effort needs upward of 8,000 signatures to move forward. To date, it's collected 3,000.

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to jenniferw@metronews.com or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

12 Comments

  1. Meyering is simply a smaller example of a growing desire of some local elected officials to treat public boards and districts as place to get public welfare. The biggest elected welfare cheat is Pete “Double Down, Double Dipper” Constant. Pete now has it in his head to run for West Valley Board after working with groups who opposed college bonds elections for the college. Why? Because Constant, the Double Down, Double Dipper knows that he is exempt from reporting his pension as income since he is an elected official. Constant, who has a conflict of interest in serving the on the West Valley Board due to his employment at St, Mary’s was caught on tape at NBC admitting that he is an unapologetic double dipper. (See the interview). 80 GRAND WORTH, plus the council salary, plus joint interest in his wife’s stipend, plus his income from two independent businesses, plus his “college faculty” salary. Constant is the magician of the conservative movement, get someone to pay his tab while he lashes out at school funding for kids. Constant has also told three sources he is running for sheriff in four years, so his seat on the college board will be a parking spot for his ambition while he votes against helping college students, while collected his four checks from the taxpayers every week. Can Sunnyvale afford Meyering? No, can West Valley afford Pete’s desire to make five paychecks and not report any? No.

  2. “It used to be that Sunnyvale was like Harvard—everybody wanted to work there,” says Chris Moylan, an ex-councilman whose term overlapped for a couple years with Meyering’s. “Now it’s like a safety school. He’s really hurt this city. He’s hurt our reputation and he continues to hurt it every day he’s in office.”

    “Harvard”? “Safety school”? If you can’t name a “safety school” for fear of offending someone, then it’s too late. You’ve already offended someone.

    Does everyone living in Sunnyvale wish they were living somewhere better? Or is it just Moylan?

  3. S. Randall, just to clarify — Moylan was saying that the City of Sunnyvale has become a less desirable employer due to Meyering’s antics, referring directly to the early resignations of the former City Manager and City Attorney.

    • Virginia,

      Sure, but why can’t he just say so. I can understand what you wrote, but why do we need the Harvard and “safety schools” stuff?

      I don’t live in Sunnyvale, but I live in the Cupertino School District. When there was that dust up over Cupertino Middle School a year or so ago, Moylan struck me as petty and vindictive. His quote in this article stuck me as elitist. Is this what the recall is all about? Meyering isn’t a Sunnyvale kind of person?

  4. How does Sunnyvale’s compensation for part time council members compare with surrounding cities? Here’s info on Sunnyvale’s next door neighbor, Santa Clara, from the State Controller’s Public Employee Pay database, compared to Sunnyvale. 2012 is the most recent available data. The first number is salary, and the second number is retirement and health care benefits (some council members have health care benefits paid through their work/spouse or through the city as retired city police officers). Santa Clara has an elected mayor plus 6 council members, whereas Sunnyvale elects 7 council members who then select one member to serve as Mayor.

    So why isn’t SJI looking at the real story? Why would Sunnyvale pay its part time council members (who presumably have the same duties as Santa Clara’s council members) thousands of dollars more per year (in some cases twice as much) for the same part time council work? And why are Sunnyvale’s health care/retirement benefits for council members so high when compared to Santa Clara’s?

    SANTA CLARA CITY COUNCIL 2012:

    Mayor:

    $17,161 $3,942

    City Council Member:

    $11,046 $2,537

    City Council Member:

    $11,046 —

    City Council Member:

    11,016 —

    City Council Member:

    $10,988 —

    City Council Member:

    $10,866 —

    City Council Member:

    $10,776 $2,476

    SUNNYVALE COUNCIL 2012:

    Mayor:

    $31,095 $664

    City Council

    $27,625 $6,982

    Vice-Mayor

    $24,197 $21,922

    City Council

    $23,743 $14,035

    City Council

    $23,422 $14,908

    City Council

    $22,762 —

    City Council

    $22,734 —

    FYI the website for the state controller’s office public pay database is: http://publicpay.ca.gov/

    • Thank you for providing that URL link. It made clear the disinformation in this article. Salary is salary, health care benefits are just that – NOT salary. Folks generally equate “compensation” and “made” with salary. You would think a writer well skilled in the English language could write a less misleading article.

      Looking up the Sunnyvale City Council at http://publicpay.ca.gov/, one can see that the actual salaries are rather similar and *much* closer together than this article suggests. The large difference the article eluded to seems to be due to health care (and a little bit of retirement). This is a much harder thing to compare — as an example we have an ex-police Council member — so he’s already getting this retirement and health care from the City… thought from the above it seems Jim Davis does take the Council health benefit — not sure why.

      A good question would be why a Council member is allowed to elect health care benefit compensation at all, much less for their entire family. Since the Sunnyvale City Council is a part-time job — why is health care offered at all if the member has any other work-related avenue for health insurance?

  5. Rumor in Sunnyvale now is that the recall campaign has hired paid signature gatherers. Is that true? A true grassroots recall campaign should be able to get all of the signatures it needs just with volunteers.

    • Do you lose more face failing to collect enough signatures for a recall or when the recall fails at the ballot box? I know the later is more expensive.

      This is a lost cause. Prove me wrong. Please!

      • I agree. I think this is a lost cause. People can get together and be flabbergasted together, assume that everyone else is just as flabbergasted as they are, assume that the number of flabbergasted people is large, and not see that they’re living in an echo chamber, surrounded by like minded people. It’s good that there’s a high threshold for a recall election, because elections are very expensive.
        They started on April 11th. Sept. 17th is the deadline. So far, the recall website states that they’ve collected 3000 signatures. They need something like 8250 valid signatures to proceed with a recall. But there is a failure rate for the signatures. What is it? 85% are valid leaving 15% not valid? So they need more like 9500 signatures. I predict that they won’t get it.

  6. Why are the other city councilmembers so threatened by Pat Meyering? What are they afraid that he might reveal to the public?