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Some Los Angeles County lifeguards protecting California beachgoers are making a hefty salary.
“This has been years in the making,” Adam Andrzejewski, founder and CEO of government spending tracker OpenTheBooks.com, told The Daily Wire.
A recent report by OpenTheBooks.com found that some lifeguards made up to $392,000 in 2019, but today, the salary and benefits are even more substantial.
Daniel Douglas, the highest-paid lifeguard, made $510,283, up from $442,712 in 2020. He earned more than 1,000 of his fellow lifeguards, with a salary of $150,054, added perks of $28,661, benefits in the amount of $85,508, and $246,060 in overtime compensation.
The person with the next highest earnings was lifeguard chief Fernando Boiteux, who earned $463,517 — an increase from $393,137 last year.
Andrzejewski told The Daily Wire that each year, OpenTheBooks auditors capture “virtually every public employee salary record at every level — federal, state, and local across the country” through Freedom of Information Act requests.
They then use forensic auditing to examine “egregious circumstances,” of which he said the LA lifeguards’ compensated perks and pensions are a significant example of “taxpayer abuse.”
Auditors at the site discovered that 98 lifeguards in Los Angeles County made at least $200,000 with benefits last year, and 20 earned between $300,000 and $510,283.
The perks keep going, with LA County lifeguards allowed to retire at age 55 with 79% of their compensation after they’ve worked for thirty years.
The report also discovered that most of the top-earning lifeguards were men — 18 out of 20. Lifeguard captain Virginia Rupe made $307,664 in 16th place, and Lauren Dale, an ocean lifeguard specialist, made $303,518 in 19th place. However, according to Zippia, a job-finding site, 67% of beach lifeguards in the U.S. are men, and only 33% are female.
The group pointed out that lifeguards also continued to work during the pandemic — sometimes by carrying out stay-at-home mandates, helping at COVID testing locations, or through water rescues.
Overtime compensation is also a massive factor in the mega salaries. Last year, 37 lifeguards earned overtime from $50,000 to $247,000. In a six-year span, between 2016 and 2021, the top three high earners garnered between $505,579 and $980,007 in just overtime earnings.
Sometimes, lifeguards are awarded for acts of bravery, but the OpenTheBooks report noted that many lifeguards who won Valor Awards didn’t get top earnings. However, some winners of Exemplary Service Awards did earn leading salaries.
Pool lifeguards, on the other hand, don’t make nearly as much, with the top paid “pool lifeguard” earning $45,030 with benefits and pay.
Andrzejewski said the LA County lifeguards are “outliers” as far as the earnings of their peers in California and throughout the country. When asked why he thinks the pool lifeguards are making so much less than the beach lifeguards in California, he told The Daily Wire in a statement over email, “This is a question the LA taxpayer should be asking. Why can the county hire ten pool lifeguards for the price of a top-paid beach lifeguard?”
“Baywatch lifeguards have staggering comp packages and it is unsustainable. On its face, a lifeguard paid over a half million dollars is just ridiculous. Taxpayers understand this,” he said.
Pool lifeguards and beach lifeguards, however, do not share exactly the same responsibilities. The Lifeguard Store notes that an ocean lifeguard “undergoes a slightly more rigorous training and certification regimen than pool lifeguards because of the different working environment.” Since lifeguards at the beach are working outside in a natural source of water, the situations are not as foreseeable as those that can happen at a pool. Beach lifeguards receive training to deal with ocean water conditions, as well as the possibility of dangerous weather.