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Ignoring critics, supervisors hike salaries of five elected officials

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
Issue 32, Volume 18.
Paul Young
Special to the Valley News

RIVERSIDE - Riverside County supervisors today tentatively approved hiking the salaries of five elected officials by an average 16 percent, despite criticism that the salary boosts were "insulting" and "abominable" given the stagnation or loss of wages that many workers experienced during the recent economic downturn.

In a 3-1 vote, with Chairman Jeff Stone absent and Supervisor Kevin Jeffries dissenting, the Board of Supervisors agreed with a Department of Human Resources recommendation that upward adjustments to the salaries of the auditor- controller, assessor-clerk-recorder, district attorney, sheriff and treasurer- tax collector were justified.

"Our pay is far behind our department colleagues," Auditor-Controller Paul Angulo told the board. "Not paying us appropriately is bad policy. It's good public policy to pay public officers equitably."

Angulo was the only one of the five elected officials to speak, though he was joined by former Riverside County Sheriff Cois Byrd, who urged the board to reward current Sheriff Stan Sniff for his "professional leadership" in effectively managing his department.

"I'm seldom interested enough to show up here and speak, but this is about equity and fairness," said Byrd, who served as sheriff between 1986 and 1994. "Average the raise out over six years, and it doesn't look too large."

Human Resources chief Michael Stock justified the raises by pointing out that without them, the five elected officials would potentially be making less than their most senior staff members.

Union contracts and separate pay schedules ratified by the board for executive-level employees have created salary disparities known as "compaction," under which the most high-ranking agency official receives total compensation that's actually less than the managers working for him or her.

According to Stock, the five elected officials in line for salary increases haven't received any adjustments in pay since 2008. Stock also noted that "a recent external market salary survey" comparing the earnings of similarly placed officials elsewhere supported the increases.

But several speakers expressed dismay over the size of the proposed pay hikes, which are slated to be formally approved after the board returns from its August recess.

"Your constituents have not seen salary increases even close to this," said Temecula resident Paul Jacobs. "Many people are taking pay cuts just to find a job. It seems insulting and inappropriate to be boosting salaries by this amount. These are positions of public trust and service. The trend of exorbitant executive compensation in government is unsustainable."

Perris-area resident Brett Holstrom lambasted the notion of awarding pay hikes simply because "someone is aging in space or time."

"My general impression is, this is Advertisement
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wrong," she told the board. "A lot of people have not regained employment since the recession. People have lost their homes. And you're giving raises to individuals who are doing absolutely nothing to earn it? It's abominable."

Though generally supportive of the adjustments, Supervisor John Benoit felt that pushing compensation levels up too much in one fell swoop was an affront to the "taxpayer's perspective."

Under Stock's recommendation, the assessor-clerk-recorder, auditor- controller and treasurer-tax collector would each have received a 20 percent raise, while the district attorney and sheriff would each have gotten a 22 percent pay hike.

Supervisor John Tavaglione argued for the recommended increases, saying the agencies in question are "run by five very, very talented elected individuals."

Tavaglione highlighted the backgrounds and accomplishments of each incumbent, except for District Attorney Paul Zellerbach, whom the supervisor endorsed. Instead, he summarized the legal education and work of DA-elect Mike Hestrin, who does not take office until Jan. 2.

"Here we are asking whether he deserves a raise? He has served this county damn well," Tavaglione said.

Jeffries said he was "philosophically" opposed to the pay hikes.

"I don't fault a department head for wanting to make as much as an executive staffer," the supervisor said. "But when you jump into politics, you sacrifice a lot of things. There's a complete change in the rules, and with that comes a change with respect to compensation."

Benoit put forward a comprise that assured each of the five elected officials would receive base compensation that's at least $1,000 more than the next highest level staff executive in their respective agencies.

Supervisors Marion Ashley and Tavaglione agreed with the formula, which will increase Assessor-Clerk-Recorder Larry Ward's, Auditor-Controller Paul Angulo's and Treasurer-Tax Collector Don Kent's salaries 16 percent, from $165,727 to $191,000.

District Attorney Paul Zellerbach's salary will rise 11 percent, from $223,166 to $247,000, and Sheriff Stan Sniff will receive a 20 percent hike, from $223,166 to 268,000.

The tentatively approved changes will put the sheriff's base compensation well above the pay rates of his counterparts in Orange and San Bernardino counties, whose annual earnings total $207,984 and $231,924, respectively, according to salary schedules provided by those two counties.

The DA, similarly, will be receiving pay that's roughly one-fifth more than that paid to his counterpart in Orange County, and about 15 percent more than what his counterpart in San Bernardino County takes in.

San Bernardino County shares a population nearly identical in size to Riverside County, while Orange County's population is 40 percent larger, according to census figures.



Comment Profile ImagePatricia C
Comment #1 | Thursday, Aug 7, 2014 at 11:07 am
As usual, Riverside County citizens will grumble about this a little -- a very little -- and then they will roll over and take another one in the backside from the Riverside County board of supervisors being led by criminal-in-command Jeff Stone. In addition to their self-granted exorbitant salary they add $500,000 annually in slush fund money to their district budgets (, and when a grand jury calls them out they use more tax-payer money to buy an official response letting them off the hook. When will you people stand up to this monstrosity? Wanna know what else your county officials are up to? Check this out:
Comment Profile ImagePaul Jacobs
Comment #2 | Thursday, Aug 7, 2014 at 3:39 pm
My comments to the Board:

I have tremendous respect for the work the Sheriff and other elected officials do heading crucial County departments. They are certainly deserving of upward salary adjustments, but I know of nobody outside of Wall Street or the One Percenters enjoying a 20 percent or higher boost in income.

Certainly your constituents have not seen salary increases anywhere close to 20 percent and in many situations, people have taken pay cuts just to find or keep a job.

Considering the Great Recession this Board often speaks of, doesnít it seem insulting and inappropriate to boost public salaries to such a great extent?

The staff report states that these salary adjustments are based on an external market salary survey, internal parity review and a compaction analysis. The staff report provides none of that analysis but instead offers flowery paragraphs of job descriptions.

I think Riverside County is fortunate to have such competent people in these elective positions, but the key word here is elective.

Respectfully, as elected public servants I donít believe members of this Board earn a salary as do the professionals filling these positions of public trust and service.

No offense, but with members of this Board pulling down close to $150,000 per year, those who are elected to positions that shoulder the burden of running indispensable county agencies deserve to receive salaries above your considerable compensation to avoid compaction.

While I respect and appreciate the officeholders in these positions, this trend of exorbitant executive compensation in government is unsustainable. I canít think of anybody I know who doesnít deserve a 20 percent pay raise but it doesnít happen much in the private sector or with rank-and-file government workers.

The magic of this wage boost will be compounded with the built-in cost of living adjustments. The public staff report does not provide fiscal analysis justifying these staggering wage adjustments.

Until that fiscal analysis is available, I suggest approving a well-deserved five percent increase in compensation today and then bringing the item back with a complete staff report for further review in a public hearing.

Thatís my motion.

Thank you.
Comment Profile ImageGeorge
Comment #3 | Friday, Aug 8, 2014 at 10:43 pm
Salaries are just part of their compensation. What is the cost of the benefits they receive and how much is allotted for their pensions? How much is a "recommendation" from the county's Human Resource department worth? Not much when they are all in the same good-old-boys-club. The least that should be done is to get a compensation study by an outside impartial firm.

Article Comments are contributed by our readers, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Valley News staff. The name listed as the author for comments cannot be verified; Comment authors are not guaranteed to be who they claim they are.


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