FINAL REPORT

CASE #0100 Tuition Reimbursement City of Lodi

 

REASON FOR INVESTIGATION

A citizen filed a written complaint regarding a letter to the editor stating that the Mayor of Lodi had been reimbursed $5,000 in tuition payments for classes taken at St. Mary’s College.

BACKGROUND

In 1988 the Lodi City Managers office extended to all City Council members the same employee benefits given to full-time, non-safety employees of the City of Lodi.

The current City of Lodi employee benefit package includes tuition reimbursement based on stated criteria.

METHOD OF INVESTIGATION

The Grand Jury met with the Lodi City Manager on three separate occasions.

The City Manager discussed California Government Code §53200 & §53208.5, implemented in January 1995, referencing employee benefits being extended to Council members.

A discussion was held with the former City Attorney for Lodi, who held the position during the years of 1988/89.

A review was made of all minutes of Lodi City Council meetings held in 1988 & 1989, the years in which it was suggested that the issue of employee benefits being extended to City Council members may have been raised at a Council meeting.

A review was made of appropriate City of Lodi administrative procedures regarding employee benefits.

A summary of tuition reimbursement payments, listing all payments made to employees and Council members, was made available for the Grand Jury to examine.

A review was made of the administrative procedure used to verify eligibility of tuition payments.

FINDINGS

The process for payment of tuition reimbursement available for employees and council members was uniformly applied with regard to the City of Lodi Mayor.

The payments made to the Mayor were paid, per class, over a period of time, not in a singular check as could be inferred by the letter published in the local newspaper.

The payments made to the City of Lodi Mayor were consistent with similar tuition reimbursement for other employees of the City of Lodi.

Other cities in the immediate area extend a variety of employee benefits to their city council members. Some cities do not have these benefits available.

The Mayor has returned to the City of Lodi the amount of money given him for tuition. The money had been deposited in the Veteran’s Memorial Fund, not the General Fund.

During the final interview with the City Manager, he determined that the money had been misdirected to the Veteran’s Memorial Fund and a journal entry was done on October 26, 2000 to transfer the funds into the General Fund.

The City of Lodi Council members have voted to delete the tuition reimbursement from the benefit package they currently enjoy.

The legislative intent of California Government Code §53200 and §53208.5, enacted in January 1995, is to have a uniform limit on the benefits extended to members of "political subdivisions of the state". The codes speak to retirement benefits, group life insurance and health and welfare benefits.

RECOMMENDATION

It is recommended that the City of Lodi council members address the issue of benefits being extended to council members. This vote could be taken at a time when the impact on the current Council would have minimal effect. To continue to extend benefits based on an administration decision made in 1988 leaves ongoing decisions on this issue open to scrutiny and conjecture.

It is also recommended the Lodi City Council take formal action if it is their desire to have this money placed in the Veteran’s Memorial Fund.

 

RESPONSE REQUIRED

The City Manager of Lodi shall respond in writing to the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court within 90 days of publication of this report on:

Section 933.05 of the Penal Code, requires that as to the finding in the report the response indicates one of the following:

  1. The respondent agrees with the finding.
  2. The respondent disagrees with the finding with an explanation of the reason therefore.

Section 933.05 of the Penal Code, also requires as to the recommendation, the response indicate one of the following:

  1. The recommendation has been implemented, with a summary of the action taken.
  2. The recommendation has not yet been implemented, but will be, with a timeframe for implementation.
  3. The recommendation requires further analysis, with an explanation of the scope of the analysis and a timeframe not to exceed six months.
  4. The recommendation will not be implemented, with an explanation therefore.