City Council to discuss possible pay increase, ongoing litigation

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on February, 26, 2020, is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Santa Clarita City Council is slated to discuss Tuesday, among other things, the ongoing litigation involving the council’s election process as well as a possible pay increase for the council members themselves.  

As has been done in previous meetings since the litigation was first filed late last year, the council members will hold the conference with their legal counsel regarding Michael Cruz et al. v. City of Santa Clarita in closed session, just before the regular meeting is set to begin.   

Scott Rafferty, the lawyer for plaintiffs Michael Cruz, Sebastian Cazares and Neighborhood Elections Now, an organization run by Rafferty out of Walnut Creek, California, has said in the past that he filed the civil case in order to receive injunctive relief on the basis of the California Voting Rights Act of 2001.  

Presently, the City Council holds staggered elections and the five seats on the dais are selected through an at-large voting system — meaning that voters vote on all available seats for that particular election cycle, regardless of where they or the candidates live within city limits.  

In the case filed on Dec. 29, the litigants argue that to vote for a single representative from their neighborhood district would better result in more representative candidates for local communities with large Latino and minority populations in future City Council elections — groups whose populations have grown since the city’s system was implemented decades ago and are protected by the CVRA.   

Council members have generally remained quiet on the issue for the past four months, citing that they are unable to discuss ongoing litigation involving the city.   

However, in a handful of individual statements or when speaking at events separate from council meetings, some council members have expressed their support for the status quo, arguing that an at-large voting system empowers voters by allowing them, regardless of where they or a candidate live, to select all five council members.  

In addition to the discussion on litigation, the council will review a possible compensation increase for themselves, raising their monthly pay for the work they do as elected officials from $2,217.41 to $2,439.15.  

According to the meeting agenda, the salary increase is in line with Government Code Section 36516(a), which allows for a city council to approve a 5% increase each calendar year since their last salary adjustment, but only if the raise for the five council members comes into effect after a future City Council election.  

The council members last increased their salaries on Jan. 1, 2021, meaning that the earliest raise they could give themselves now would be Jan. 1, 2023. The rate of increase, according to the agenda, would account for 5% in 2021 and 5% in 2022, totaling an overall 10% proposed increase. 

The last salary adjustment made by the council for calendar years 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 was 2.5% per year.  

The special meeting for the Santa Clarita City Council is set to take place on Tuesday at 5 p.m. at City Hall, 23920 Valencia Blvd. The regular public meeting is then scheduled to take place at 6 p.m.  

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