Total $1 million pay package for Escondido city attorney-manager tops state money list

It pays to be a top Escondido official, according to Transparent California.

Today, Transparent California released previously-unseen 2015 public employee compensation data — complete with names, pay, and benefits — for 379 cities and 42 counties statewide on, the state’s largest public sector compensation database.

Escondido city attorney Jeffrey Epp’s $521,204 and city manager Clayton Phillips’ $518,749 total compensation packages made them the state’s highest-compensated city attorney and manager, respectively, and the 2nd and 3rd highest-compensated city workers of the more than 245,000 employees surveyed.

Clay Phillips before his resignation as Escondido city manager.

Clay Phillips before his resignation as Escondido city manager.

Escondido city attorney Jeff app.

Escondido city attorney Jeff Epp.

Epp and Phillips benefit from the ability to cash in extraordinary amounts of unused leave, thanks to a contract that provides 10 paid holidays, 20 management leave days, and about a month of vacation each year, according to a recen report.

Escondido’s dynamic duo aren’t exactly strangers to top civic pay lists. They’ve ranked in the top 10 city employee pay lists since 2013. App got $507,400 in 2014 while Phillips took in $490,700.

Their high compensation, according to sources, results from cashouts of unused sick or vacation time, a benefit not offered to other workers at City Hall. Other city employees are only paid for unused leave time when departing city service.

In June 2013, according to The Union Tribune, Epp and Phillips signed nearly identical contracts which would allow the city to gradually pay out excessive amount of unused leave time the two had accrued.

Epp and Phillips would receive three installments, one each year, according to the contract, which included salary boosts of about 12 percent over the same time frame.

City officials said the agreement limited future liabilities and saved money by giving the payouts at a lower salary rate, rather than one large payment at the highest salary upon retirement.

After Epp and Phillips, the next employee of a San Diego County city on the statewide ranking is Celia Brewer, city attorney for Carlsbad, at No. 327. She was paid $355,600 in 2015, including $246,500 base pay, other pay of $4,600 and benefits of $104,400.

Don Yamashita, a fire prevention inspector from Milpitas, north of San Jose, was the top paid city official in the state. His salary and benefits reportedly were $541,600.

A survey of 16 San Diego County cities, excluding the City of San Diego, revealed that the average full-time city worker received $122,614 in total compensation last year.

The three San Diego County cities with the highest average compensation package for full-time, year round employees were:

  1. San Marcos: $134,555
  2. Santee: $133,009
  3. Carlsbad: $129,402
Golden Gate Bridge Panorama

Non-partisan Transparent California publishes all retrievable California public employee salaries.

San Diego County

The County’s top earner — chief administrative officer Helen Robbins-Meyer — received a more than $25,000 salary bump last year to boost her total compensation to $448,008.

Spending on employee compensation at San Diego County increased 6 percent since the previous year, with a nearly 10.5 percent increase in overtime pay. The average full-time, year-round County worker collected $104,021 in total compensation.

Compensation is defined as total wages plus the employer cost of retirement and health benefits. Full-time, year-round employees are defined as those receiving a salary equal or greater to 90 percent of the “annual salary minimum” reported.

San Diego City

The average full-time San Diego City worker received $86,335 in wages and benefits, excluding the cost of pension benefits. San Diego did not provide the cost of retirement benefits on an employee level; however the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System reported an average contribution rate of 62 percent for the 2015 fiscal year, suggesting an average cost of nearly $42,330 per member.

25 San Diego city workers collected over $100,000 in overtime payouts, with overtime spending increasing nearly 6.5 percent city-wide.

The largest overtime payout to a non-safety city worker went to lifeguard Ric Stell, who received $90,230 in overtime on top of a $63,093 salary.

San Diego should follow the lead of virtually every other California city and county by reporting pension costs on an individual, employee basis, according to Transparent California’s research director Robert Fellner.

“There is no excuse for providing incomplete, and consequently misleading, data on government pay packages. San Diego should join the rest of the state and report full compensation values to the public, particularly given that taxpayers must bear this extraordinary cost.”

To view the entire dataset in a searchable and downloadable format, visit

1 Comment on "Total $1 million pay package for Escondido city attorney-manager tops state money list"

  1. I sent an email to the City Council and was informed by them, (especially the Mayor) that the $1 million pay package and the statement that they were the 2nd and 3rd highest compensated city workers was incorrect. I was appalled that our little town of Escondido had done this…and now they deny it.

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