So Rich It’s Sick

While Occupy Wall Street movements rally with a base called the 99 percent, a group at San Jose City Hall goes by a similar title but with an altogether different meaning. The group known as Unit 99, made up of the city of San Jose’s top managers as well as some clerical workers in the City Council offices, includes some of the highest-paid officials in San Jose. The most lucratively compensated of these officials is Debra Figone, San Jose’s city manager, who earned $239,000 last year. Figone has worked for the city on and off for nearly a quarter of a century, and since returning from a stint as Los Gatos’ city manager, she has racked up the limit of 1,200 hours of unused sick leave. Doing some crude math, if the most powerful unelected official were to retire today, she could cash out roughly $100,000 in sick leave. After former police chief Rob Davis and former fire chief DarRyl Von Raesfeld both took the money and bolted upon retirement last year—$298K and $268K in sick leave payouts, respectively—the city changed its golden parachute policy. Employees of four public bargaining groups have already been stripped of their sick leave payouts unless they quit or retire before Jan. 1, 2012, while a timetable of June 30, 2012—the end of the fiscal year—is the current expiration date for the rest of city workers. All of this has set off speculation that Figone will retire sooner than later. But Tom Manheim, the director of communications for the city, says any talk of a windfall for Figone is irrelevant: “I can tell you unequivocally she is not going to resign,” he says. For a city that expects more layoffs as well as closures of libraries and community centers, having the highest-paid employee give up a six-figure sum would be an impressive display of discretion. But as one dubious political insider points out: “If the city manager is giving up $100,000, then the city ought to be blaring that with a trumpet.”

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.


    • She is the Mayor, Police Chief, City Council head voice, and owner of all city services.  With all this power it only makes sense that the audit of the Incubator was shut down.  SHE IS THE VOICE AND BOSS OF THE CITY.

  1. Go figure, screw the little folks while she sits on her mattress full of money.  239K a year for what. 

    God bless the unions!

  2. Queen Figone will not retire until she “busts” all the unions, especially police and fire, and gets to pick out her luxury box at the new downtown A’s Stadium.  We are all nothing but peasants to King Reed and Queen Figone……Hail to the Queen…..Hail to the Queen.  What a scam!!!

  3. The city manager / acting chief came back to San Jose in 2007 and already reached 1200 hours of sick time.  Due the math, public safety officers would have to not take one day of sick time and work for 12+ years to match that number.  But then Deb never had to work a night shift, a holiday, get shot at or enter a burning building or stand over a burned or murdered person.

    239K a year for what?  Hide city funds, lie to the citizens(indirectly since she will never speak publicly, she has the other chief and Mayor Chuckie for that), layoff public safety officers and other great city employees. And create a non existing “fiscal Emergency” when it is you and the council who are wasting and mismanaging our money with your behind closed door meetings that are not made public. 

    I wish the FLY would break down all of the council’s pay, sick time, vacation, out of town trips and perks since the city put all of the other city employee salaries on the web!

    Post that information in a follow-up post and I bet we would vote them ALL out of office.

  4. Debra Figone not only gets a sweet pension, but also her 457 deferred compensation paid for by the City. What a joke…. And people are complaining about how much the cops and other city workers are making….sheesh

    • Do you not see what is going on!  Drink the San Jose Cool Aid.  Because this city is going to die!  They want to bust the city unions and crush city services.  There is no “we can’t afford pensions”. 

      Our once pound city is gone, I would never take my family downtown for fear of being assaulted.  I will go to Campbell, Los Gatos, Sunnyvale or any other city to spend my money in a safer environment.

      Our city manager, mayor and council is the joke of all California.  We lay off valuable city employees and yet the CM makes over 1/4 million a year!  Plus bennies.

      My God, time to leave this city, OH and PO wants us to send a check to the city for 16K to balance the budget!

      Are you all insane!

  5. Is ANYBODY happy with San Jose under the management of Debra Figone? It might be worth the 100k sick leave payout just to get rid of this disaster of a City Manager!

    Let’s see, 239K in salary, plus 100k in sick leave, that’s a pretty sweet deal. Meanwhile cops and firefighters are laid off, libraries cut hours, city workers get screwed at every turn and us citizens watch as San Jose goes a little farther down the drain every day.
    Please, Debra, just take the money and GO.

    • 90% retirement plus 3% annual cola…???  We really don’t know do we? Isn’t Unit 99 also know as the “Confidential Employee Bargaining unit?” The confidential aspect being that some of the compensation and benefits they receive is not for disclosure?  Individuals can negotiate for wages or benefits that are if interest or unique to that particular employee.  Perhaps Deb said,  ” i want 1200 hours of sick leave in addition to the published compensation package.” So the council goes into closed executive session and says ” sure why not….” 

      With Mayor Reeds particular brand of open govt/sunshine were really don’t know all the facts. How do you think he gets funding for all his “executive advisory staff?” Those positions were created out of thin air.  Is Joe Salcedo’s “public safety liaison” to be found anywhere in the city charter. Remember the bath the taxpayers took on the mortgage for IPA Babs Attard’s in-town condo after her contract was not renewed?

      The fly is only scratching the surface here.

    • Oh the irony complaining about the 100K Figone might get but forgetting the Police & Fire payouts to chief that are nearly 3 times that.

      yeah no greed among the fire and police ranks.  Phony hypocrites.

      All of us noncity workers are sick and tired off ALL their greed.

      • THe irony is that the City Manager wants to do away with sick leave account pay outs but not hers.

        The Irony is that the City Manager wants to cut pensions for police and fire and every other city worker with the exception of her and the City Councils. HEr pension pretty much is-what-t is as she is nearly maxed out after nearly 30 years on the Gov’payroll.  COuncils is pretty much untouchable because it is with CalPERS ( you know the pension system they just denied Police and Fire from joining???)

        The irony is teh the city manager has only been here 6-7 years yet has maxed out her sick leave account at 1200 hours.  How did she do that? Sick leave is only earend at ethe rate of 96 hours/year! HEr balance should be below 700 hours shouldn’t it?

        Pretty Ironic huh?

  6. How much does Debra make for being the Executive Director of the San Jose Diridon Development Authority Board?  (this is the same group that now has control of all bought stadium land).

  7. RISE UP RESIDENTS OF SAN JOSE!its good to finally see people asking questions and demanding answers. The truth about why this city is in such turmoil is finally coming out and guess what it is NOT because of employee salaries and/or pensions.It is about greedy ,corrupt,lying city government.all of them from the Dishonorable Mayor,power hungry City Manager,all of the Clown court(council)destroying this city.They point the finger at public safety for sick leave payouts,salaries and pensions,but dont tell you that they are receiving an even more generous payout after only 2 terms. PLEASE CONTINUE TO QUESTION EVERYTHING……………….CITY MANAGEMENT LOVES THE UNINFORMED!

    • Post the true info on the city council and all that they make and receive.  We want the truth.  Don’t just post a comment, to get a reply, be a true investigative reporter and tell us the truth.

      This is your chance to tell all of us what is really going on!  Do your home work so we can reply to the real facts.

      Don’t be a PO, post a worthless message just to get us fired up, give us facts.  Otherwise this blog is a waste of time for people to vent with no expectation of a real response from those in question.

      Heck it has been weeks and the COP has yet to respond.

      Lets make this a forum worth responding too!

      Give us true FACTS!

    • Last year in 2010 looing at the salary list, at least 51 Police and Firefighters had sick leave payouts over 100k, some well over that amount.  The number of City management has grown smaller over the last few years, even if they all retired there would probably be less than 20 payouts over 100k.  I would expect with the rash of retirements from both police and fire this year, there will at least be another 50 police and firefigthers with over 100k sick leave payouts this year.  I beleive the Mayor answered the question about Council retirement in his Q and A and it is not better and more generous than public safety as the writer infers.  No disrepect meant, all those including management are within the guidleines of the various retirement plans and deserve what they received but it points to the fact that pension reform is needed…….

      • And sir,  all those in police and firefighters are within their retirement guidelines.  Ask yourself this question sir,  “how was it that those fire and police officers received so much in sick leave payout?”  I will tell you why ……… be cause they didn’t take much time off sick and saved the city money you Nimrod.  If they had taken sick days off,  they would have been paid for that day off and their respective dept. would have hired someone else to take their place at time and a half pay.  That,  you pin-head,  would have cost the city more money.  All through a career in police and fire,  the administration is professing wellness – ‘take care of yourself;  stay healthy,  workout,  stress reductions classes.  Why,  so that the city can save money.  Now,  when the employee retires,  and that employee has taken great strides in being a model employee,  they are rewarded for that with a nice compensation.  Them’s are the rules Nimrod.  Get your facts in order before you run your mouth off with lies and false truths.

        • I believe my facts are correct.  I meant no disrepsect to the public safety employees or city management as I stated if you read the post, they are within the rules and congratulations to them for the payout.  I disagree with your assumption they saved the City money by not using sick leave, not every postion is backfilled with overtime.  The point is that many more public safety employees will earn more in their sick leave than management personnel will, so to pick om the management personnel is not fair.  That large payout has to change in the pension reform.  Your last assumption was calling me sir, I perfer Ms.  I guess Nimrod is gender nuetral.

        • Management personnel get a lot more perks than other city personnel and it makes up for absolutely anything else…plus they don’t have to work near as hard. Try carrying a coffee cup all day, attending meetings and playing favorites. Really hard work for the pay. It’s the grunts that do all of the work. The way I see it, the grunt’s salaries should be more than management’s salaries.

      • My dear friend,
            The sick time buy out is going down EVERY DAY!  The only way to get a day off in the Dept as an officer is too call in SICK.  15-17 a day call in sick for all three shifts.  It has become an epidemic. So much so that Lt’s are calling the officers at home to verify being sick.  I think the Lt’s (NOT ALL) may scared they may be answering calls.  We could operate the Department with No. Dep. Chiefs and half the command staff.  We need bodies on the STREET NOW!

  8. Is the city managers salary all all compensation subject to public disclosure as she is a government employee.  I would like to know what her salary includes:

    1.  Any board or committee salaries as a result of her position as city manager.
    2.  All compensation to include perquisites.
    3.  And finally any misc compensation, interest free city loans, vacation or executive time off having a monetary value at retirement, and annual sick time acrued.

    Is this information also available for the Mayor and council members salary? This info, if located, would make for an excellent news story.  It may also shed light on executive compensation, including the real cost of their benefits.  The public has a right to know!

  9. Clown Council if Figone stays past Jan 1 will just give her a $100,000 bonus or raise her salary to $350,000 since in their clueless minds she is a critical city employee

    We should be so fortunate that Figone takes her $100,000 and moves back to Los Gatos Good riddance the damage she has done to city will last for years

    She has been worst City Manager ever and we have has some really bad City Managers

  10. Hey city manager have you seen or even care of the number of murders and officer involved shootings in you city.  17 gang related deaths after the PD was forced to eliminate the VCET (gang unit) responsible for keeping a lid on gang crimes due to layoffs.

    Thank you for taking us from one of the safest cities in America to just another sister city of Oakland.

    How many other perks are you getting that we do not know about?  Bet you do not even live in the city you are destroying.

    Take you damn money and run!

  11. Wow ! What a surprise, City Manager & Mayor scream about “Employee Salaries & Pensions”, never once letting on that their benefit package is WAY BIGGER than anyone elses! The City even pays her Deferred comp? are you serious? That is $16,500 a year x 25 years. all other employees in deferred comp Pay 100% of their own savings , But we the residents of San Jose pay for the Mayors and City Managers. This city screams ” We are going Broke”but doesnt tell you that San Jose has a AAA credit rating(with over 2 billion in reserve) they have devastated our public safety…….and then cry about Late responses by F.D.  & P.D. , Never mind the sharp increase in violent crimes, and Homicides. but hey as long as we can take care of our city manager………thats whats important.  Debra Figone & Chuck Reed are directly responsible for the downward spiral of this once beautiful city.This City is a shell of its former self, no wonder residents and city employees are leaving by the dozens.who are they going to blame next for the citys problems?

  12. It is 1% wealthy government employees like Figone with $239,000 salary, $100.000 sick leave payouts, $200,000 pension and millions future city consulting that cut working people wages, reduce living conditions, raise taxes on middle class and make cities poorer

    Figone hands her 1% millionaire and billionaire friends millions city taxes, city land and no bid million dollar + contracts to make herself and 1% friends more millions

  13. For that kind of money, and for the amount of power that position wields here, the people should have a say as to who holds that position.  There is absolutely no oversight, and no one to look out for the people that her decisions affect.

    • The City Manager is appointed by the City Council, who are all voted into their positions, therefore you do have a say if you vote.  As for the compensation, please look at other City Adminstrators and their comepnsation, which make this look very low.  Citys with much smaller populations and budgets pay more for their City Admisntrators, Santa Clara for example.  It’s easy for the unions to pick on the head of the organization but there were other active San Jose City emplyees who made more than her last year, where is the outcry for that.

      • Those same other smaller cities provide their employees better pay and benefits. They also appreciate their employees and treat them better and with respect. It’s easy for the unions and employees to be upset about this, and for good reason. The unions aren’t “picking” on the head of the organization. The employees and some of the citizens are a little tired of incompetence. Fed up. There is outcry for that!

        PS…List one active employee who had a base salary larger than the city managers’.

        • Never said the other base salaries were higher, but in total comp with overtime etc of other employees make more than the City Manager, for example Battalion Chiefs in the Fire Department.  Just look at the last few years of salary charts.

        • Those people were given their once-in-a-lifetime cash out on sick, vacation and comp time balances because they retired. Those are not year to year earnings. You sound like you work for the Mayor based on your distortion of the facts. Look up the same employee for 3 or 4 years prior and you’d see their true income.
          However, it would be unfair to fail to point out, fire and police Chief officers are executives. In every profession executives are compensated thusly. Difference is, public employees only get one bonus in their entire career. Retirement separation payout. Not quarterly or year end bonuses. Stop being unfairly inflammatory.

      • You know what, you are right about her salary being low….compared to the city manager of Bell.  Looking at Santa Clara’s city manager, she makes about the same amount, HOWEVER, they have a part time council who’s top earner made $18k last year, and their mayor made a whopping $14.5k in 2010.  My point about OUR city manager is that there is NO ONE to tell her NO.  The mayor and city council follow her direction.  I actively vote, and am not a city employee nor a union member.  So you can whine about the unions picking on poor Ms. Figone all you want, but do not include me in that same breath.  Her decisions directly affect me and the safety of my family while we live in the city of San Jose.

        • Looking online the base pay for Santa Clara City Manager is $285,000, about $50,000 more than the San Jose City Manager.  Thats not about the same amount.  I agree we should look at the number of Councilmembers and their compensation, but keep in mind that there are union representatives that are Cit yemployees make upwards of $50,000 above theri salaries for their positions on the union boards.  This is paid for by the union dues, but why should a union rep make more than a council person?

        • I would like to know where you got your information in regards to union reps making $50k over their base salary JUST for being board members, because I cannot find VERIFIED information in regards to this.  Second, since I’m not in a union and I don’t have to pay these union dues that you are talking about, I don’t have a problem with it.  It’s not my money, and does not affect me.  Looking at the POA for example…I don’t think that POA board members just sit on their thumbs waiting for the next meeting or negotiation, they actually do their job on the streets AS WELL as their job on the board.  So comparing that to a council member who makes $80k as a “functioning” member of the council, and also has a side job, at lets just say a software consulting company for another $80k for example, is like comparing apples to oranges. But again, not my problem, if the unions’ members have a problem with it, then they should speak up and do something about it.

        • Look at the Fire Union Executive Board.  The President makes 50% of top step Firefighter and others on the board make 35% to 45% of top step Firefighter.  The old Union President tried to raise it to 100% of top step before he left but in good wisdom it was voted it down.  Currently top step Firefighter is about $89,000 with the recent 10% concession, so it is about $45,000 per year for the union president, down from the $50,000.  Sorry for the rounding error and not taking inot account the concessions this year in the earlier post.

        • The SJPOA board members All get a once a year $5k stipend for the countless hours they put in. One flat rate. You are putting out erroneous info.

  14. If the families of homicide victims were smart they’d initiate a class action lawsuit against the CITY OF SAN JOSE for negligence in their duty to provide public safety, specifically naming Figone, Reed, and Buford, rather, chief Moore.

    • I do not have time to check but it would be good to know if the money paid to the Mayor/Council Expenses appear in the General Fund as receipts.  If not, where is that money going—into their own pockets?

  15. I find it disgustingly ironic that the Financial report for the San Jose Redevelopment Agency shows all the millions of dollars spent, the millions of dollars in “short fall” and then it has a memo attached to the end of the report blaming it all on the city salaries and pensions.  And what do you see on the very first page of the report????  You guessed it lady and gentleman …a picture of what the new baseball stadium will look like.

    More ironic…Council Member Rocha worked for the SJRDA.

    Wake up!

  16. Here is a public record for your perusal.

    October 20, 2011

    Mayor Reed and Members San Jose City Council
    200 East Santa Clara Street
    San Jos~, California 95113-1905

    Re: City Manager Watch: Will CM “Do the right thing and retire”? Thirteen (13) days left.

    City Manager is entitled to every penny due to her under the “sick-leave-buy-out policy”!

    Will the City Manager “jump ship” and cash out big time on all that reinstated (gifted) money?

    OR…Will the CM accept Martyrdom?

    Over paid and benefited “At Will employees”’ like Communications chief, are praying for Martyrdom!

    If CM retirees, “At Will employees” could face the “axe of regime change”! A lot of savings here!

    Martyrdom makes “cents” if you do the monetary math of a High Salary v. NO Accountability!

    CM has a “sweet gig” and also enjoys Council being bent over a log to “squeal” upon command.

    San Jose / Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant continues to hire RETIREES. Why?

    Environmental Services Department’s Management is an embarrassment to taxpayer’s.

    Is the Assistant City Manager champing at the bit for promotion if CM bails?

    …Or just rubbing salve on Council rumps as usual to keep the status quo hides from being chaffed?

    What does the Assistant City Manager do anyway? Sure didn’t pay too much attention to ESD.

    According to [RESOLUTION NO. 73799 (which is included): page 2, E. Separation Notice, the City
    Manager has agreed to provide a sixty day notice to the City of a voluntary resignation.] This would give the City Manager until [November 2, 2011 (before or at midnight)] to give the appropriate sixty (60)day “Separation Notice”.

    The City Manager can tender the “Separation Notice” at any time up to midnight on
    November 2, 201l which is thirteen (13) days from today.

    But, the City Manager does have the option to refuse to step down (voluntarily) and thereby refuse to
    accept over one hundred thousand (over $100,000) dollars that she is entitled to receive from the
    magnanimous reinstatement of 872.9870 hours of sick time by Couneilmembers who authorized this “gift” of
    taxpayer monies during a budget deficit year with foreseeable future budget deficits.

    [RESOLUTION NO. 73799, page 3] shows the current Councilmembers: CONSTANT,
    LICCARDO, NGUYEN, OLIVERIO, PYLE and MAYOR REED; authorized and voted for the
    aforementioned sick time reinstatement.

    Cc: City Attorney / City Auditor / Manager…Respectfully submitted, David S. Wall

  17. Dear The Fly,

    Please try to be consistent with your use of words so that your posts do not confuse and or cloud the issues here.  Unit 99 is a UNION in exactly the same sense that the SJPOA is a UNION. City Manager Deb Figone is therefore a UNION MEMBER in the same sense that our police and fire fighters are UNION MEMBERS. 

    Unit 99 members are UNION MEMBERs and NOT “GROUP MEMBERS” as you imply in your post when you say that Unit 99 is a “group.”

    Mayor Reed, Figone and the rest of Unit 99 will not appreciate this fact but let’s tell it like it is.

    • As a former unit 99 member, unit 99 is a group and not a union. The group does not pay union dues and has no negotiating power, we take what is offered or what is taken away.  They may ask for some input, but the outcome is not negotiated.

      • Thank you for making my point. In the aftermath of Measure “V” the SJPOA is now a “Group” and not a Union. After Unit99’s membership gets voters to approve its proposed Pension Reform ballot measure They will have completed their mission to ensure the rest of the bargaining Units in the City become more grouplike – “here is the offer: we are taking it away.” 

        One issue though with Unit99’s “group” status. The City Council ulitmately votes (and approves)  Unit99’s contract – that is like the kid in the candy store – the takeaways are almost always more than offset by the offers.

      • Unit99 is niether a “union” or a “group.” It is a pretty exclusive Club! 

        Sure you “suffer in silence” with the offers offsetting what is taken away. But lets get real here.  Unit 99’s pay and benefits come from the “pay and benefits” commission. The membership of that commission is by council member political appointment and final approval by the entire council.  The Commission takes input from the Unit 99 members and drafts the pay/benefit package that goes back to to the Council for ratification.

        So Unit 99 members appoint the persons that populate the body that drafts their salary package. Unit 99 members provide input to that body to assist in creation of the draft. That body submits the draft package to the Council who ratifies it?  Who needs negotiations?

  18. Just heard SJFD started an Academy with 20 candidates and are now down to 9. All the others received job offers from other BETTER Cities. expect this trend to continue and like SJPD seasoned and trained individuals are leaving for better opportunities.  39 homicides and counting , 3 alarm fire with 6 verified rescued. things are only going to get worse , with city talking more firestation closures(brownouts) and more Police Officer lay-offs

    • Funny the Murk prints everything that paints the P.D and F.D. in a negative light such as the article about the women on the department, then fails to cover those incidents that save lives including the three alarm fire and the many times P.D. officers have negotiated or mediated between warring families, neighbors. The Murk is the mouthpiece for the council its no coincidense they have a private office just outside the council chambers. Don’t want to give any Firefighters and or Police Officers any credit for doing a great job 24/7.

  19. Im just wondering why nobody is talking about that piece of——, retirement services directer who wrote the e-mails about san jose employees being worthless.  This guy should be fired . Naturally Sam Liccardo came to his rescue problem is he’s just as big a jerk! Saying “everything was taken out of context”. Does this moron not realize that most everyone can read and 2 and 2 together. Liccardo is the same kind of snake we already have in office (Reed). Way to be a man and stand up for what you said!I guess Sam would rather act like a school kid and deny,deny deny! So i guess hes a weasel AND a liar , looks like he has all the qualifications to be mayor …………….Pathetic!