Image : SM Spoke
Image : SM Spoke

Earlier this week, CBS2 News breathlessly reported the “news” that Santa Monica City Employees make more money than those of surrounding cities. The report, and slant, for the story was provided by Transparent California, a project of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, an organization that describes itself as “Nevada’s first free-market think tank.”

Once one understand the source of the data, it’s not hard to understand that the data was not provided as some sort of public service but with an agenda to undermine confidence in public employees and to further damage city unity after a brutal local election.

It’s also not surprising that the data itself was horribly flawed.

Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole explains, in the comments section of Santa Monica Next’s analysis of the CBS 2 story. Cole is targeting one of the main controversies raised by the story, that SMPD Chief Seabrooks makes more money than LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.

“Actually, Chief Seabrooks did NOT take home roughly $50,000 more than Chief Beck. Her salary is approximately $40,000 less,” explains Cole.

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“The error comes from Transparent California’s data — which for some reason included Santa Monica’s pension costs in their total comp figures, but not LA’s. Which is why we were the subject of last night’s story. We pay very well, but not much more than most cities. We have a lot of public safety overtime, but again, not much more than most cities.”

Just a reminder to Santa Monica residents, and local news channels. When you start believing news sources that are claiming to be about transparency, it’s best to take a beat to understand their motivations and examine the data.  Especially when two minutes of research shows that the group receives (d) part of their funding from a foundation funded by the Koch Brothers.