It was an honor system: California's redistricting commissioners received $300 for each day they reported working, often from home.
The result was that some commissioners were paid far more than others in the redrawing of legislative and congressional districts, records show.
Commissioner Michael Ward received the most compensation for time served, $68,400 in per diem, while Commissioner Maria Blanco pocketed the least, $35,100, records show.
The disparity between Ward and Blanco represents 111 more days in which the former reported that he had conducted commission business between late 2010 and this month. The panel is scheduled to shut down July 1.
For six of the first seven months in 2011, Ward reported averaging more than five days per week on commission business. In each of his two busiest months, he reported working 28 days and receiving $8,400 in per diem each month.
Ward, a practicing chiropractor when named to the panel, said he was burning the midnight oil studying redistricting publications and handling paperwork required of commissioners in the first few months of its existence.
"My knowledge base, at the start, was very low," Ward said. "Those first few months, I was getting four or five hours sleep, reading and studying like crazy. That's what was required, just to be competent."
Two weeks after he joined the panel in December 2010, Ward received per diem for much of the December holiday week, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve. He was working as a chiropractor and had to squeeze in whatever commission business he could handle on holidays, when he had time off, Ward said.
Commission members had to document the hours spent on the job, but there was no policing of the system.
Commissioner Vincent Barabba has received $60,900 in per diem since late 2010; Cynthia Dai, $54,000; Stanley Forbes, $52,800; Jodie Filkins-Webber, $50,100; Jeanne Raya, $49,000; Connie Galambos Malloy, $48,000; Lilbert "Gil" Ontai, $47,400; Angelo Ancheta, $46,800; Gabino Aguirre, $41,700; Andre Parvenu, $39,900; Michelle DiGuilio, $39,600; and Peter Yao, $38,400.
The commission consists of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four people not affiliated with either major party. Members required six hours to be worked before a $300 per diem could be claimed, although that time could be accumulated over several days.
"It was done on the honor system," said Forbes, current commission chairman. "I didn't watch anybody else, and nobody watched me. We had set the (standards), and we just knew that each person was doing different things from time to time, so that would affect the amount of time for each individual."
Executive Director Dan Claypool said there were obvious reasons why some commissioners spent more time on the job than others -- the positions of chairman and vice chairman rotated periodically, giving each of the 14 commissioners a chance to serve at the helm. About half the members opted not to accept the time-consuming leadership duties, Claypool said.
Other commissioners spearheaded specific projects -- Ward, for example, produced a video that explained the redistricting process and introduced Californians to the 14-member panel; and Barabba, a former director of the U.S. Census Bureau, assumed additional duties identifying and explaining census data that was available to the redistricting commission, Claypool said.
Commissioners received no salaries for their work. Forbes said that many were hard-pressed to maintain their day jobs while carving out the time necessary for commission duties. He said he only took one day off last year, for his son's wedding, from working on redistricting matters or for a bookstore he owns.
"There's no question that voters got their money's worth," Forbes said of hours served by the panel.
"As far as the majority of the commissioners," Ward added, "I don't think they could have worked harder during the process."
The commission's final totals for per diem are expected to rise slightly. Some claims have not yet been filed for April, May and June, records show.