Letter to the editor- Supervisors hurt credibility
To the editor:
The salaries of El Dorado County Supervisors are tied to those of the elected officials of the county. When the BOS gives a raise to the county elected officials, they get one themselves.
In the past few years the BOS has been erratic with regard to increasing, or attempting to increase, their own salaries, etc. In November, 1998, despite having their salaries tied to those of the elected county officials, Supervisor Upton, feeling overworked and underpaid and supported by Nielsen, Shultz, and Bradley, proposed a 42% raise for BOS members from just over $40,000 to over $63,000. They gave the public four days notice. Despite the short notice, there was significant public protest, and the motion was rejected. Supervisor Nielsen, however, had anticipated such a reaction and had a backup position ready in the person of Kathy Libicki, Director of Personnel, who came to the meeting, charts at the ready, and Nielsen proposed a 20% raise. That didn’t go anywhere either.
Seven months later, in June of 1999, almost all county employees, including the BOS, got a 3% cost of living raise. That wasn’t enough for the Board. They became “creative” and gave themselves an additional 4.6% increase. How? They simply gave elected department heads 96 hours of management leave because “theoretically,” they are on duty 24 hours a day. Thus having given 96 hours of paid leave to elected department heads, BOS members were similarly entitled. It translated into an additional 4.6% salary increase, for BOS members…You might call that a smooth move, or you might call it something else. They got it, regardless of what you call it, and the public (at least most of the public), has a short memory. However, it sorta’ shot regular BOS claims about being overworked and underpaid in the foot.
In January 2000, Nielsen, took another shot at raising BOS salaries. Kathy Libicki, Director of Personnel prepared an optional and convoluted method of comparing BOS salaries with those of elected officials, that would have, had it been adopted, given BOS members a 4.74% raise, effective January 1, 2000. Humphreys, new to the Board, supported Nielsen’s proposal but that’s as far as it got.
A few years ago, the Board decided that in addition to normal holidays they would take quarterly three week recesses – have no board meetings. That’s 12 weeks a year. This idea was promoted as “giving staff time to catch up on their workload.” It wasn’t explained how staff would catch up on work that accumulated during the periods of no Board meetings, and though it was unspoken, the public was expected to assume that Board members would still be on the job and available to their constituents, either at the office or somewhere in the district rather than sleeping in, fishing, or taking a picnic at the beach.
Hard to beat a public job where, with few constraints, you can set your own daily hours, work year and salary.
Our current Board has three recently elected members and it seems to me that they have exhibited different perspectives on public issues than their predecessors. I believe they’ve had a significant and positive effect on Board actions and attitudes. last week the Board voted to give themselves and other elected department heads a 3.5% cost of living increase. When finally approved later this month, a Board members salary will increase $153.00 per month for a new annual salary of $53,520. This does not include fringe benefits, the major one of which is $4250. Last week they also voted, 3-2, to give the Board chairperson an additional 5% annual stipend.
I’d like to see this newly constituted Board lead the way to a solution of the ever recurring issue of BOS salaries. The possibilities, as I see them, are:
1. Select five or six counties comparable to El Dorado County in terms of population and budget and conduct a study showing how, not only BOS, but all County elected officials salaries, fringe benefits, staff, and other appropriate components compare, share it all with the public before making a pitch for change.
2. Adopt an ordinance which provides that every two years the Grand Jury conduct such a study and make it a part of their Findings and Recommendations.
Personally, I favor this approach. First, it would save considerable county staff time. second, the Grand Jury study would reach a much greater number of the public than any county conducted study. Third, such a report would reach the public at the same time each year, (normally June), unless the Grand Jury determined to release it earlier.
A well-designed initial study, properly conducted, would be relatively easy for a Grand Jury to up-date every two years. It would remove the BOS from the criticism that comes from such shenanigans as described above. It would improve the BOS’s credibility with the public.
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