Costa Mesa Is On the Verge Of Paying One Cop $23,000 a Month

Calling its proposal a “potential savings,” the Airborne Law Enforcement Services (ABLE) is contemplating giving one Orange County police helicopter pilot two taxpayer-funded paychecks totaling more than $23,325 a month for the next six months.

ABLE is the joint powers authority for the Newport Beach and Costa Mesa police departments. At ABLE's monthly meeting today at Newport Beach Police Department headquarters, ABLE commander Tim Starn did not mention that his plan would effectively pay pilot K.C. Gleason about $146 an hour. (That is determined by adding the officer's retirement pay to the amount of this special contract.) The outline of the proposal was contained in a Costa Mesa Police Department memo distributed at the meeting. Starn made it clear that, by his calculations, the move is not just wise but also cost effective.


Gleason, who already takes home more than $180,000 annually in pay and perks–according to documents reviewed by the Weekly–finds
himself in his windfall position after he threatened to retire in
December, a move Starn oddly hadn't prepared for even though the
veteran pilot had alerted ABLE of his intentions as early as the outset
of 2009. Like other pilots who've left since 2007, Gleason has been
near retirement age for several years. According to Starn, Gleason's
departure couldn't be foreseen in time to train a replacement, thus the need to offer the pilot the lucrative special contract.
But the deal hasn't been finalized. After Starn's brief presentation, Costa Mesa Police Chief Christopher Shawkey asked to postpone today's scheduled vote on the matter until a possible special meeting next week. 
Mesa is not ready to move formally [to approve the deal],” said
Shawkey, who indicated that he favors the arrangement conceptually.
“I'm in discussions with the city manager on that now.”
Costa Mesa City Manager Allan Roeder did not return my calls for comment.
Shawkey told me in a telephone interview that ABLE's pending plan caps Gleason's special pay at $60,000 for the period.
“It takes about 18 months and $65,000 to train our pilots,” he said.  
–R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly

R. Scott Moxley’s award-winning investigative journalism has touched nerves for two decades. An angry congressman threatened to break Moxley’s knee caps. A dirty sheriff promised his critical reporting was irrelevant and then landed in prison. The U.S. House of Representatives debated his work. Federal prosecutors credited his stories for the arrest of a doctor who sold fake medicine to dying patients. Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.

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