Lifeguards in Los Angles County earned up to half a million dollars in taxpayer money last year as they raked in overtime and benefits.
According to a study from OpenTheBooks.com, 98 lifeguards in Los Angeles earned at least $200,000 including benefits last year, while another 20 made between $300,000 and $510,283.
Thirty-seven also made between $50,000 and $247,000 in just overtime pay, with the top three highest earners making between $505,579 and $980,007 in overtime over the past six years.
Among those who reaped the benefits are Daniel Douglas, a lifeguard captain who took in $510,283 in 2021 – up 15 percent from last year when he reaped $442,712.
With that salary, Douglas out-earned 1,000 of his fellow lifeguards taking in $150,054 in salary, $28,661 in ‘perks,’ $85,508 in benefits and a whopping $246,060 in overtime.
The second-highest paid lifeguard, Fernando Boiteux, meanwhile, earned $463,512 last year – up nearly 18 percent from the year before when he was taking in $393,137.
More than $140,000 of the difference in Boiteux’s income is due to benefits.
These lifeguards can retire after just 30 years of service – at the age of 55 – and still take in about 79 percent of their salary.
But both Douglas and Boiteux’s incomes are more than 15 times the average lifeguard salary of $30,932, according to Salary.com.
Daniel Douglas (pictured in 2009), a lifeguard captain, took in $510,283 in 2021 – up 15 percent from last year when he reaped $442,712
Douglas earned a whopping $246,060 in overtime last year
Lifeguard Division Chief Fernando Boiteux was the second-highest paid lifeguard, taking in took in $510,283 in 2021
Division Chief James Gartland was the fourth-highest paid lifeguard taking in $386,556
Lifeguard captains Tom Seth, left, earned $337,557 last year, while Patrick O’Neill, right, took in $383,032
Edward “Nick” Macko, an LA County Ocean Lifeguard Specialist, earned the Medal of Valor Award in 2020 but only earned a salary of $134,144
OpenTheBooks also found that most of the top-paid lifeguards in LA County were men, with women accounting for only two of the top 20 highest earners – Virginia Rupe, who earned $307,664 and is the 16th highest paid lifeguard, and Lauren Dale, who earned $303,518 to be the 19th highest paid lifeguard.
And many lifeguards who won Valor Awards for their brave rescues failed to crack the top of the payroll.
In 2020, for example, Medal of Valor winner Edward “Nick” Macko, an ocean lifeguard, jumped into the waters of a Palos Verde gorge and pulled a man to safety through potentially skull-crushing pressure and over razor-sharp rocks, but only earned a salary of $134,144.
And in 2021, the Exemplary Service Award for EMS went to lifeguards Todd Ribera (who was compensated $184,676), Stephen Leon Jr (who was compensated just $36,597), Max Malamed (who was compensated $130,952) and Blake Hubbel (who was compensated $170,956).
Still, some of those who won Exemplary Service Awards were some of the top earners including ocean lifeguard specialist Lauren Dale (whose salary is $303,518 to rank as number 19 on the top payed lifeguard list) and lifeguard captain Roque Roque (whose salary is $319,566 nd was the sixth highest paid lifeguard in 2020).
The survey also found that 37 made between $50,000 and $247,000 in just overtime pay
The high salaries are apparently the result of a strong union, known as The Los Angeles County Lifeguard Association.
According to Adam Andrzejewski, the senior contributor and founder of OpenTheBooks.com, the union has bargained for better wages, hours, benefits and working conditions since 1995.
It was then able to obtain a lucrative contract through a non-compete deal between the county and the city of Santa Monica, he explained to the Wall Street Journal, writing: ‘In 2009, the city of Santa Monica signed a 10-year, $25 million contract with the county for lifeguard services.’
The city then extended the contract for five years and $17 million in 2019, but as Andrzejewski explains, ‘There were no identified competitors and the contract wasn’t put out for bid.’