SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — Critics call it the “Santa Ana Gold Rush.”
Santa Ana’s soon-to-be city manager, 53-year-old David Cavazos, will become one of the state’s highest paid public employees in October, making $550,000 in salary and benefits.
In addition, newspapers in Arizona report that Cavazos is poised to collect a six-figure pension from his current employer, the city of Phoenix.
“If he’s earned the money that he’s earned…good for him. What I’m looking for in a city manager is someone who is exciting, that has the type of resume that he has,” said Santa Ana Mayor Pro Tem Sal Tinajero.
While city officials in Santa Ana defend Cavazos, longtime resident and blogger Art Pedroza calls his new salary “a slap in the face to the people of Santa Ana.”
Of Cavazos’ Phoenix pension, Pedroza said, “The premise of those pensions is for retirement. It’s hard to argue he’s retired when he’s still working here in Santa Ana. It might be legal, but is it right?”
Last November, amid hiring freezes, the Phoenix City Council voted to hike Cavazos’ pay by $78,000 to $315,000 a year.
Phoenix leaders said there was an implied promise he’d stay put. But, instead, it just increased his retirement.
Less than a year later, when Cavazos qualified for his pension, he announced he’s leaving Phoenix.
In a statement, Cavazos said, “I am not leaving Phoenix for the money; my base salary will remain the same. Rather, I am going for the opportunity. I have accepted this position because I’m excited to build upon the successes in Santa Ana.”
Santa Ana leaders said Cavazos is worth every penny because he’s widely credited as helping Phoenix out of a very tough financial situation. He’s not without controversy, however.
Under Cavazos’ guidance, Phoenix raised the food tax by 2 percent. In 2006, when he was the acting deputy city manager, he was suspended and forced to repay the city for questionable travel expenses.