Dozens of San Francisco City Employees Live in Southern California. Huh?

Categories: Government, Labor
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Abandoned in San Diego by a firefighter recalled to SF?
The Bay Citizen published a nifty online database over the weekend that shows the pay and partial mailing addresses of San Francisco city employees. The accompanying article parsed the data, and debunked the idea that city employees -- who are relatively highly paid -- flee San Francisco because they can't afford to live here. (Those with higher salaries tend to live in surrounding counties, it turns out.)

We took a spin through the database and found something else of interest: There are a significant number of city employees who don't live in the Bay Area at all. Dozens live as far south as Fresno, Los Angeles, and even San Diego -- not to mention in closer, but still distant, Central California locales such as Monterey and Santa Cruz. This is tough to explain, as is the fact that many of these far-flung municipal workers are earning hefty overtime.

If these are indeed the home addresses of the employees listed in the database, some of them might be violating provisions of public safety workers' contracts. The city's memorandum of understanding with firefighters, for instance, requires that they live within four hours' travel time of San Francisco to respond to emergencies.

Jennifer Johnston of the city's Department of Human Resources tells us that the data in the Bay Citizen's charts only lists the mailing addresses of city employees -- in other words, somebody might live in San Francisco or the Bay Area and, for some reason, have a different mailing address on file with payroll officials. "That may or may not reflect people that don't have full-time schedules. That may or may not reflect people's actual home address," she says.

Without examining workers on a case-by-case basis, it's impossible to know what's going on. Still, some of this appears strange. How can a Muni operator clocking $23,000 in yearly overtime live in San Diego? How can a lawyer in the District Attorney's office with a salary of $167,000? Wouldn't it be inconvenient for a child support services officer in San Francisco to hang his hat in L.A.?

Meanwhile, nine firefighters live in Placer County, which stretches from the Sacramento Valley to the Nevada border. There are also six firefighters who live in Fresno, Los Angeles, or San Diego. L.A. and San Diego certainly are not easy places from which to travel to San Francisco in under four hours -- you'd need a last-minute flight in the event of an emergency recall for a local crisis. With traffic, Fresno could be just as bad. We put in a call to fire department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge, and will let you know when we hear back.

UPDATE, 3:44 P.M.: Talmadge called us back. She says she doesn't know the breakdown of how many city firefighters live in distant counties. "I know there's a lot of our members that live in the city, and I know there are some that live quite a distance away," she says. As for the four-hour response requirement, she says that firefighters in Southern California could travel by airplane in the event of a recall. "I don't believe that would be in violation of [the MOU], in terms of someone hopping on a plane," she says.

Image   |   Harly Qinn


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