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Commerce City Council OK’s Its Own 35% Pay Raise

Money bag


Commerce Councilman Joe Aguilar is retiring from the council, yet voted yes for the increase.

Commerce Councilman Joe Aguilar is retiring from the council, yet voted yes for the increase.


Commerce City Council


Councilwoman Denise Robles cast the lone no vote during second reading, outgoing Councilman Joe Aguilar does his friends a favor by voting yes for the raise.

By Tammye McDuff and Brian Hews

Two weeks ago, the Commerce City Council participated in a “first reading” and voted to give themselves a hefty 35.5 percent pay increase. The raise, with Councilman Ivan Altimirano making the first motion to vote, seconded by outgoing Councilman Joe Aguilar, was then approved by Mayor Tina Baca Del Rio, Mayor pro tem Lilia R. Leon, and Councilwoman Denise Robles.

After learning of the motion, Hews Media Group-Community News emailed the Mayor, Mayor pro tem, and councilmembers for comment on the huge increase.

Not one official responded.

The “second reading” to authorize the pay increase took place at last Tuesday’s regular city council meeting with only a majority needed to approve the raise.

This time the vote was 4-1 with Councilwoman Robles voting against the pay increase.

The $371.89 boost, would raise council pay to $1,434 per month, up from $1,062.55, and will cost taxpayers an estimated $22,300 a year.

According to an LA Times analysis, the state guideline for Commerce City Council compensation is $12,191, the raise will take total pay to $17,208.

Adding other perks, such as health benefits and payment for sitting on special boards,  total pay will increase from $26,293 to $31,310.

In contrast, council members in the neighboring city of Norwalk, a city 15 times the size of Commerce, earn only $1,000 per month.

After the vote, Robles was immediately attacked by two of her colleagues.

An angry Mayor pro tem Lilia Leon lashed out at Robles saying, “so you approved the increase last week, and now you are voting no? Are you going to take the compensation?”

Robles responded, “I am not going to answer you right now, I will tell you in four months.”

To which Leon said, “the increase is next month is it not?” She was corrected by staff, who told a perplexed Leon that the increase was in April 2015.

Leon responded with “interesting” then requested the conversation be placed “on the record.”

After the meeting Robles told HMG-CN, “City council has not had an increase in a few years, and I do believe all should be compensated fairly.  However, as the decision makers and leaders of not only making decisions to pay, we also make decisions for [resident] fees.”

Robles went on to say, “the council has not reduced fees for residents to the level they were a few years ago, thus I cannot justify an increase to our salary.  We are in office to serve the people and do what is best for the residents.  Fiscal responsibility is a must.

I originally voted yes on the increase, due to being intimidated by one of my colleagues. After all I have been through during my term, I admit – I did not want to face controversy yet again.  But at the second reading of the item, I voted no, as I had originally planned. I had to do what is right, even if I am not in the majority. As expected I was immediately taunted by two of my colleagues. As a public servant I must continue to put the needs of the residents before my own.”

Once voters pick their next mayor and fill the council seats in the Mar. 3, 2015 election, the raise will take effect in April.

Because Commerce is a general law city, the current council had to vote to increase the next council’s pay, and California law allows them to increase salaries by an amount equal to 5 percent a year since the last adjustment.

That last adjustment was 2007 in Commerce’s case, and the council voted to increase salaries as much as the law allows.

“Thirty-five percent is excessive. Imagine if your employee group came to you for that amount,” said resident Mike Alvarado, “you would say no, I know the Commerce Council would say no. Being a Councilmember is not intended to be a full-time job.”

  • Mario espinoza says:

    I’m a commissioner for montebello. I do my job voluntarily because I’m passionate for my native city and I am trying to help not rob.. If they(council members) try doing this in montebello there be a riot ! This Bell all over again !

  • anonymous says:

    Quit whining, you asked for it!!!!!!!

  • anonymous says:

    The people need to understand who the council members were before they were elected; not after!!! What was their income, education, and employment title and job description? Did they have any significant achievements? What is or was their ranking compared to their peers; do they own a house, did they own a new car ever in their life; they do now!!!! They do not have a clue as to the education and background required to be an effective council member; that is why other administrative staff have to carry them; they then become obligated. The responsibility to verify all potential council members on their claims before being elected lies with the residents of the model city!!!!!!!! There is a new election under foot; the residents do not deserve false campaign slogans; they demand an intelligent, provable and verifiable plan to make the city successful; not stupid campaign slogans that any fool can promise; and they always do, if you want your city to change for the better; YOU NEED TO CHANGE; or history will repeat itself again and again and again!!!!!!!!!!!!! Does it sound familiar!!!!!!!!!!