San Diego City Council chambers. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
San Diego City Council chambers. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The City Council’s Charter Review Committee on Thursday advanced a proposed response to a grand jury report that criticizes the way salaries are set for San Diego’s elected officials, but without recommending ultimate approval.

The grand jury last month criticized the current method for determining the compensation of the mayor and council members, in which a Salary Setting Commission makes a recommendation that’s approved or rejected by the City Council.

Bob Ottilie, the chairman of the Salary Setting Commission, called the system “awkward” and “a conflict of interest.”

He echoed the grand jury report in saying that office-holders in politically sensitive jobs don’t want voters to see them raising their own salaries, especially when municipal finances are tight.

That effectively sidelines potentially talented candidates who aren’t willing to take a pay cut to run for office, according to the grand jury.

Ottilie told council members last year that 4,000 city employees make more money than they do.

Base compensation of the mayor has been frozen at $100,464 since 2003, and the pay of council members has been $75,386 since that time.

The grand jury, which said the cost of living has risen 25 percent in the interim, called on the Charter Review Committee to look into the issue and develop a ballot measure for next year’s elections.

The city’s Independent Budget Analyst’s Office suggested that the council partially disagree with a grand jury recommendation that the salaries be tied to an outside benchmark, either the pay of Superior Court judges or the consumer price index.

That received a lukewarm response from members of the Charter Review Committee, which is tasked with overhauling San Diego’s 84-year-old City Charter. They also asked Ottilie to provide his input before the item goes to the full City Council.

Numerous flaws in the city’s governing document were discovered in 2013 as officials and the public searched for ways to remove then scandal-plagued Mayor Bob Filner from office. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith has called the charter “ambiguous, outdated and incomplete.”

Council President Sherri Lightner, who chairs the review committee, said it has until January to propose ballot measures for the June 2016 election.

Changes to the City Charter require a public vote.

— City News Service