The exception, not the rule

On behalf of the Gateway Cities Southeast Los Angeles County City Managers Group, we write to address the alarming information widely reported in the news media about the compensation of the Bell city manager and other employees. Our group of 27 local city managers reacted with shock and outrage when reading these recent stories. If accurate, what the Los Angeles Times disclosed as happening in the City of Bell may not be illegal, but as local government professionals and as individuals, we want the public to know that we find the reported compensation of the Bell city manager and others in that city outrageous and a huge aberration. It is not the norm in our profession.
City managers are responsible for the day-to-day activities of their communities. Services such as public safety, tree trimming, street and sidewalk repair, parks and recreation programming, and economic development are some of the daily activities undertaken by local government professionals. Good city managers help to steer their communities in the right direction and do not betray the trust of their city councils or of the citizens whom they serve. We believe that the standards of our profession do not permit placing our individual interests ahead of the community. In this case, we understand that Bell has been facing the same revenue shortfalls and budget pressures as most other communities, which makes these disclosures regarding the exorbitant compensation of the Bell city manager and other Bell employees that more difficult to understand.
Let me assure you and your readers, however, that Bell is the exception and not the rule. Our profession is dedicated to public service, and not profiting at the public’s expense.
The International City Managers’ Association Code of Ethics states that the city manager “should be dedicated to the highest ideals of honor and integrity in all public and personal relationships in order that the member may merit the respect and confidence of elected officials, of other officials and employees, and of the public.”
The profession of city management reflects the solid American ideals of service to others, fairness, and a deep commitment to the common good. But there are, as in every profession, a few who do not live up to the standards of the vast majority of city managers. We are dedicated to improving the quality of life in our cities and encourage your readers, the public, to become active in your city and find out more about your local city government. We understand and agree with your outrage about the compensation issue with the Bell city manager and other employees in the City of Bell. Our ongoing obligation and purpose is to keep the faith and trust of the citizens that we serve on a daily basis. As public service professionals, that will continue to be our mission.

Ken Farfsing
Signal Hill City Manager
Past Chair, Gateway Cities
Southeast Los Angeles
County City Managers Group

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