Milpitas has highest paid public employee in California

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- There are new numbers out from Transparent California which reveal which public employees made the most money in California and Milpitas proved to be a gold mine last year for the state's highest paid public worker.

ABC7 News learned that you can make upwards of half a million dollars if you are a firefighter, police officer and even a city manager in the Bay Area, but there are some caveats to that.

For some South Bay residents, the amount of money the highest paid public employee earned last year is a shock.

Former Milpitas fire inspector Don Yamashita raked in more than $541, 000 last year.
Milpitas Police Department Chief Steve Pangelinan talked to ABC7 News on behalf of the city of Milpitas. He said Yamashita retired in December, and that's part of the reason his compensation package is so high.

"Often times they'll cash them out a percentage of their unused sick leave, remaining vacation balances, remaining comp time balances, so that adds to the total compensation package for that particular year," Pangelinan said.

Yamashita was the highest paid city worker in the state, but across the Bay Area there are plenty of highly paid public employees.

Former San Jose Police Department Chief Larry Esquivel is fourth on the list. Part of his pay package is related to competition in Silicon Valley.

"It's hard to be competitive in a high priced market like this, to bring people from out of region or out of state who get sticker shock when they see the high cost of housing here," San Jose spokesperson David Vossbrink said.

Vossbrink said many of their highest paid employees are police and fire fighters who earn lots of overtime in part because those departments are short staffed.

One woman was not surprised by the high numbers, especially for those about to retire. "You can game the system, by never taking a day off, working really, really hard for a short period of time, and boost your numbers," Berkeley resident Susan Tobes said.

In some cities, the final year of payment sets an employees pension pay out.
Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.