Last week, Controller Ron Galperin unveiled a bunch of data on a website, and journalists started clicking around looking for news. The L.A. Times quickly picked up on the fact that a clerk-typist, whose regular salary is $53,000, somehow made $300,000 last year.
Top earners, per LA Controller's website
This raises some questions, none of which are answered by the controller's website. For instance: “Who is this person?” “Why did he make $300,000 last year?” “What kind of scam is this?” and “Does the city have any openings?”
It took a couple of days to track this all down, and we still don't have all the details. But here's what we know at the moment from the controller's office and the LAPD. The man's name is Salvador Neri. He works at the LAPD's Rampart Station.
For some reason, he was awarded $249,000 in back pay last year. Presumably, this is because he was either fired or suspended without pay, and then appealed that decision and got his job back. In those cases, employees are owed back pay for the time they were off work, which in this case seems to have been more than four years. Calls to Neri at the Rampart Station have not been returned, and further details about his case were not immediately forthcoming.
That was not very satisfying, but it did get us wondering about another employee. The controller's website indicates that the highest paid city employee in 2012 was a police detective who made $373,000. The detective's regular salary was just $105,000. So what happened there?
The detective's name is Michael Slider, and he had a good long laugh when we called him up and informed him that he was the city's highest paid employee. It's good that he can laugh about it now, because the circumstances of his case are tragic.
In September 2006, Slider's niece was robbed at gunpoint. She identified the robber to police as Tyquan Knox, a high school football star. As the Times reported in 2010, in the weeks after the hold-up, she got repeated warnings not to testify. She and her mother, Pamela Lark, turned to Slider for help. He in turn pressured the detectives who were handling the case to give it a higher priority. A few days before the preliminary hearing, Lark was murdered. (A jury would later convict Knox for the killing.)
Out of anger over the department's handling of the case, Slider accessed the detectives' file and turned it over to a lawyer working for the family. The department fired him for that — for, in essence, placing his loyalty to his family above his loyalty to the LAPD.
However, Silder sued and eventually won his job back. A judge awarded him two and half years worth of back pay, which came in the form of a lump sum payment of $269,000.
“I had to fight them every step of the way,” Slider says. “It should have never happened to me. If the department would have handled their business right, I wouldn't have been the highest paid employee.”
So there you have it: data. Without context, it doesn't mean very much.
Bonus data point: You may have noticed that many of the city's top earners are port pilots. Here's an article that delves into that whole deal.