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Million-dollar home loans for county heads

By rgordon
Monday, July 9th, 2007 at 12:55 pm in Uncategorized.

Add to San Mateo County’s list of governmental duties: mortgage broker.

Believing it’s a necessary recruitment tool to quell fears of high housing costs, County Manager John Maltbie wants the authority – without interference from the Board of Supervisors – to offer home loans for hiring key management positions.

Set for a consent calendar vote at the supervisors’ meeting Tuesday, the resolution would give Maltbie authority to offer home loan assistance to candidates for assistant or deputy county managers, department directors or deputy directors, or “other management-level positions determined by the county manager, after consultation with the director of human resources, to be ‘hard to fill’ positions.”

Loans would not exceed $1 million, have a term of no more than 30 years, and would be made at an interest rate comparable to the County Treasurer’s pooled rate for county investments.

“In recent years, the county has needed to offer mortgage loans as housing assistance incentives to certain job candidates in order to effectively compete in the labor market,” according to a memo from County Counsel Tom Casey. “Because of the frequency with which such housing assistance is sought by candidates for senior positions with the county and the sometimes fast-moving pace of negotiations, the county manager has indicated that it would improve the county’s competitive position in the labor market if the board granted him authority to offer certain candidates for employment a housing assistance mortgage loan as an incentive.”

There would be some stipulations to prevent carte blanche dolling. The candidate would have to purchase a home within one year of starting their new job, and they would have to use the loan to finance the purchase of a home within the county. The candidate must also be relocating from out of the “immediate commuting area” of the county’s offices.

In February, we wrote about the terms of hire for Assistant County Manager David Boesch, which included the county assuming the remainder of his $1.7 million mortgage loan from Menlo Park, where he was city manager. The county apparently also offered a housing assistance loan five years ago to recruit Nancy Steiger to be the CEO of the San Mateo Medical Center (Steiger left in May).

The latest loan recipient is Beverly Beasley Johnson, the director of the Human Services Agency, who is set to receive $850,250 at 4.61 percent over 30 years to buy a brand-spanking-new house in a development on Maple Lane in East Palo Alto. If she leaves her post or sells the house before 30 years are up, she has 180 days to pay the loan back. Beasley moved up from Kern County to take the post in November.

Casey further notes that Beasley Johnson’s “home to be purchased is located in East Palo Alto, and there is something to be gained countywide in having a prestigious county department director purchase a home there.”

Fair enough.

But Beasley Johnson makes $150,000 a year. She’s also married, which likely means there’s a second income. It’s not like she really can’t afford to buy a home here.

What she does get, as yet another perk of working in the county’s upper echelons, is a home mortgage interest rate that most county taxpayers can only dream about. Around here, a 30-year fixed mortgage rate for a house in the same price range is running these days somewhere between 6.5 and 7.5 percent.

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