Vernon, California: More Public Employees Than Residents

Vernon, California is so famous for its history of corruption that it was the municipal star of season two of HBO’s “True Detective” series. Now the tiny L.A. County city can claim another achievement: Vernon is the only California city with more public employees than residents.

Vernon’s 210 residents are served by 271 city employees, according to data on the California state controller’s website.

No. 2 Irwindale is a distant second – though just a 30-minute drive (could be hours – depends on traffic in L.A.’s tortuous downtown) from Vernon. In that East Los Angeles County city, there’s one government employee for every one of Irwindale’s 1,415 residents. San Francisco is the only major city on the Top 10, with one government employee for every 22.7 residents.

Here’s the Top 10:


top10cities Most Public Employees


Public employees in Vernon earn an average of $107,848 (plus benefits of $37,571). That’s much higher than nearby hegemon, Los Angeles, where public employees average $83,356 (plus benefits of $12,620).

Several top Vernon officials earn salaries in excess of $300,000:
Mark Whitworth (City Administrator): $402,335
Daniel Calleros (Police Chief): $361,644
Michael Wilson (Fire Chief): $361,359
Carlos Fandino Jr. (Director of Gas and Electric): $324,354
Andrew Guth (Fire Battalion Chief): $304,243

While many of Vernon’s city employees continue earn six-figure salaries, the average city resident earns far less. Per capita income in 2010 was $19,973. Median household income in 2010 was $38,500 – down dramatically from 2000, when it was over $60,000. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 5% of the population lived below the federal poverty line. In 2000, it was 0%.

How does the city fund that dramatic gap in income? By taxing utilities for industry in the city. But because Vernon’s utility rates are among the highest in California, many businesses are moving out. That’s going to put pressure on city officials to trim public services – or to capitulate to the logic of history and become part of a neighboring city. How about Bell?

Conor McGarry is a fall Journalism Fellow at California Policy Center. Andrew Heritage contributed data analysis. Source: California state Controller’s Office.

2 replies
  1. Avatar
    S Moderation Douglas says:

    And so what?

    I don’t know what a “Journalism Fellow” is but I predict Conor McGarry will thrive and prosper at the California Policy Center.

    “The city is primarily composed of industrial areas and touts itself as “Exclusively Industrial.” Meatpacking plants and warehouses are common. As of 2006, there were no parks.”

    In the 2000 census…

    “Many of the 112 residents of Vernon were city employees. Many lived in housing owned by the city government. As of 2006 about 44,000 people who work in Vernon daily live outside of Vernon.”

    And… 92.6% of Vernon residents were Latino.

    There were 29 housing units, of which 4 were owner-occupied, and 24 were occupied by renters. 

    Note to Conor McGarry…

    No one in Vernon “earn salaries in excess of $300,000”

    1) Someone at CPC should explain to you the difference between “salary” and “total compensation”.

    2) In “press releases”, Transparent California used to routinely compare the average pay of city employees to the average private sector pay in that city. It is a totally specious comparison because of the different mix of occupations in the two sectors, and thankfully TC seems to have stopped that silliness.

    In Vernon, the sample size is so small the comparison is not specious, it is ludicrous.
    And “per capita income” is totally irrelevant in this context.

    Other than that; keep up the good work. You’ll make a fine propagandist.

  2. Avatar
    Pierre says:

    And we tell our children “get a good education” in order to get a good job.

    I bet there are at least 20% of those high paid executives of Vernon with Doctorate behind their names. The others probably have a high school certificate.

    And we called the Serfs in Russia Bolshevik’s. Look out America Hell is about to Freeze over

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