Garden Grove Council Approves $200 Monthly Vehicle Stipend for Themselves

The Garden Grove City Council voted Tuesday evening to give council members a $200-per-month vehicle stipend beginning in the 2017-18 fiscal year.

The vote was 3-2, with councilmen Chris Phan, Steve Jones and Mayor Bao Nguyen voting for the increase; while Councilman Phat Bui and Councilman Kris Beard voted no.

Phan proposed the stipend, deciding to do so after his proposal earlier this year to increase the council’s salary failed to gain any traction among his colleagues, mostly due to budget concerns. The city will end the 2016-17 fiscal year with a $4.27 million deficit.

It will be the first increase to the council’s compensation in four decades.

“We waited forty years to make this happen because no one will pull the trigger,” said Phan. “I think we should bring it up every two or three years as a matter of course rather than letting it ride…and then realizing we are way behind the ball in terms of compensation.”

After one resident suggested city staff take a 15 percent pay cut to alleviate budget pressure, resident Maureen Blackmun said she supported a pay increase for council members.

“I think when you’re underpaid, you find other ways to make up for it,” said Blackmun.

A brief staff survey of neighboring cities found five cities that provide vehicle stipends: Buena Park ($223); Dana Point ($275); Anaheim ($300);  Santa Ana ($500); and Irvine ($750).

In 2015, council members took home $7,632 in salary, according to the public employee compensation website Transparent California. Phan and Beard received an additional $1,829 in benefits, while Bui and Jones received more than $16,000 each in benefits.

Nguyen received $8,849 in salary and $7,701 in benefits in 2015.

Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article misidentified Councilman Kris Beard’s gender. We regret the error.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.