10:00 PM PST on Monday, November 22, 2010

Cassie Macduff

Outrage over the Bell scandal has prompted cities and counties to trim some benefits officials have enjoyed for years.

Recently, the city of Redlands and San Bernardino County each took steps to rein in top officials’ perks.

Redlands City Council members gave up their dental, vision and life-insurance benefits and lowered their maximum medical-insurance benefit from $1,600 a month to $397 a month.

Mayor Pro Tem Jerry Bean had proposed cutting those benefits off completely, saying part-time city employees don’t get benefits so part-time council members shouldn’t either.

But the health-insurance benefit couldn’t be eliminated mid-term; it will take until 2014 to revoke medical coverage altogether.

The reduced monthly amount takes effect next year, cutting the city’s cost from $30,829 to less than $15,000 a year for the three members who use it.

Two of those members, Pat Gilbreath and Mick Gallagher, are leaving the council. If their replacements, Bob Gardner and Paul Foster, forgo coverage, the city will pay less than $5,000 a year for the remaining councilman, Pete Aguilar.

Meanwhile, San Bernardino County last week put a cap on how much vacation and leave time high-level officials can accrue and later cash out. The county’s 19,000 employees have banked an estimated $152 million in unused leave.

The 550 exempt employees affected by the newly enacted cap have banked between $7 million and $8 million. (Employees covered by union contracts already had leave caps in place.)

Banked leave made it difficult for the county to budget annual costs: It was impossible to predict when an employee would retire or take a job elsewhere and the county would have to write a check for the banked leave.

Supervisor Neil Derry said he noticed the problem when he took office a year and a half ago and pushed to cap the leave-accrual.

Starting in January, the 550 exempt employees will be able to bank no more than 480 hours of vacation and 112 hours of holiday time.

Exempt employees also get two weeks of administrative leave each year but many don’t use it, preferring to cash it out at the end of the year as a nice Christmas bonus.

I’d never heard of banking “holiday time.” I thought government offices closed for holidays. I asked spokesman David Wert about it.

He said some officials like to work on holidays because offices are quiet and they can get more done. Others take the day off as administrative leave and bank the holiday time, which can be accrued (administrative leave can’t be).

To read entire story, click here.