Furloughs Confirmed for Some City Employees

While the city is saving $26,000 every two weeks by having furloughed the part-timers, it could save more by reducing the city’s highly paid department head salaries by 10 to 20 percent

FILE PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | (L-R): City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe; Mayor Pro Tem Diana Mahmud; Mayor Robert S. Joe

The City of South Pasadena on Thursday said it “furloughed” 52 non-essential part-time workers. The furlough officially began April 27 but the employees, who work in library and community services, were sent home March 20 in compliance with the orders to close all non-essential city facilities and programs, Tamara Binns, executive assistant to the City Manager, said in an email. Although they didn’t work, the part timers were paid for their “average hours” through April 27, she added.

News of the furloughs was not brought to the attention of the Finance Commission during its April 22 special meeting nor during any of the three public meetings the City Council has held since March 20.

Sierra Betinis, president of the Public Service Employees Association Part Time Union confirmed the furlough, saying affected employees represent 70 percent of union membership. But she said the furloughs affected more than the 52 persons described by the city because part-timers across all departments are impacted.

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Betinis said members are not being paid as of April 27 and have not been given a return date. She also said the “average hours” for which members were paid through April 27 was based on a formula that did not in all cases represent the number of hours members normally work. She noted that some did in fact work during the period and/or were under an “on call” status.

Because they are furloughed and not “laid off,” members’ relationships with the city have not been formally severed, meaning they can still return without going through procedures such as background checks. And while part-times don’t get benefits such as medical and dental, they are entitled to CALPERS retirement benefits, although these will not accrue during the furlough.

While the effects of the pandemic on part-time employees were sudden and came down as a result of state action, Betinis said she believes the city handled the situation “as best and in the most ethical way they could.” But while the city is saving $26,000 every two weeks by having furloughed the part-timers, she noted it could save more by reducing the city’s highly paid department head salaries by 10 to 20 percent.


Ben Tansey
Ben Tansey is a journalist and author. He grew up in the South Bay and is a graduate of Evergreen State College. He worked in Washington State as a reporter in a rural timber community and for many years as an editor for a Western electric energy policy publication based in Seattle.


  1. When Sen. Anthony Portantino spoke with the City Council over a week ago, he was very upfront that 90% of all cities in California would have to cut staff. So we knew this was coming. Why didn’t the city just didn’t announce this was happening/had already happened? Why all the secrecy? So much for “We’re all in this together!” It’s all phony sentiment.

    We have officials working 4 days a week who don’t bother to return emails or phone calls? It all comes from the top. I’m saddened and disappointed in my city’s tone deaf dealings. I expect better.

  2. Am I to understand, that I sat through a six hour city council meeting in April and this never came up?

    The first three hours of the council meeting were filled with book reports from every single department head and Laurie Wheeler and not one city official, in that six hours or the many hours of council meetings and commission meetings since mentioned this?


    It’s shameful!

    Preserving the salaries of those at the top while our city’s lowest paid workers are now not able to make rent. This is what City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe did and what the City Council failed to disclose to the public.

    Oh, and while I heard Marina Khubesrian offer up $5000 from her discretionary fund to go towards payment of the True North contract, and spend another $150 on a banner to thank first responders, I have yet to hear any of the council give up their stipend. Easier to save the city on the backs of the poor, I guess.

    I really hope that the “advocates” for the UUT can sleep at night knowing that they got their $24,950 campaign research contract approved Wednesday night.

    That was a weeks pay for our furloughed city staff.

    But we understand, you need it. You can’t do all that heavy lifting alone.

  3. And they wonder why I keep saying that current city management is closed and uncommunicative? It appears the city NEVER made this public. There was a City Council meeting last night (May 6) and it was never discussed. A I understand it, it’s only public now because citizens contacted the South Pasadenan. I guess that because there’s no Public Information Officer, no one knew how to mouth the words. Why on earth would the city hide this? What else are they hiding?

  4. In Oxnard, the city manager just volunteered to take a $25,000 pay cut. He was joined in that move by “another 12 executives, including department heads, police chief, fire chief, city attorney and city clerk.”


    Other cities are cutting from the top. South Pasadena is cutting from the bottom. But we’re a wonderfully progressive city — for example, we hold baby showers without paper napkins.

  5. It’s very very odd that a substantial furlough of city employees beginning April 27 was only made public on May 7, and that there was no public discussion or disclosure of it at the May 6 city council meeting. This city is run…strangely.

    It’s also quite a remarkable declaration of our values that we’re saving $26,000 every two weeks by furloughing city employees, but this week our city council approved a $24,950 contract with a consultant to do a poll of local residents on UUT messaging. Plenty of money for consultants, no money for staff. By the way, we’re paying SAE Communications $305 an hour for PR consulting.

    In other news, a well-run city would provide a complete list of furloughed positions when announcing the fact of the furloughs.

    And finally, we have a city manager and an interim human resources director, but the announcement about the furloughs comes from the city manager’s executive assistant. The person actually ordering the furloughs apparently has nothing at all to say about it.

    This city government just keeps becoming more and more bizarre.