In a unanimous decision Tuesday, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors took the first step to repeal an ordinance that would have granted them a salary adjustment.
In November, supervisors voted 4 to 1 to adjust their own annual pay to be more commensurate with other Bay Area counties, from $97,000 to $129,000 per year—future pay raises would be tied to state employee salaries.
The Board of Supervisors agreed to moving forward with a repeal after nearly 40,000 signatures were collected as part of a petition drive and had it gone to the voters, would have cost the County $2.5 million.
The Board of Supervisors will come back next week and finalize the repeal while also hear alternatives regarding a future raise.
Here is a recap of the meeting along with full text from Supervisors Mary Piepho and Karen Mitchoff.
Supervisor John Gioia highlighted that they have heard from the public and the input was received.
“I think we all respect the public process and the public input that was received. I think its important to know that when the board took the action in November it did so with a salary survey, similar to what was done with the department heads. The board at that time addressed two issues. There had not been a raise in the board salary since 2007—about 8 years. And then the board was seeking a way to do what must urban counties across the Bay Area do which is to find a mechanisms to link its salaries going forward so they would not have to vote on it going forward,” said Gioia.
He explained how it was tied to judges salaries and State Employee raises.
“Most Counties link them anywhere from 49% of a judges salary, in this case Napa, to 80% of a Superior Court Judges Salary, in that case Alameda and Santa Clara,” Said Gioia.
He further explained how the Board set the salary on the average of California urban and Bay Area counties.
“What do we do going forward with both equating the salary to the level of responsibility and at the same time in linking it someway so we are not voting for it,” explained Gioia.
Peter Nguyen – GM of Local 1,
“While today’s reconsideration of that ill-conceived ordinance is certainly a good step forward, it never should have come to this. If you recall over the three meetings in which this ordinance was originally discussed, public opposition was unanimous and passionate. That sentiment was clearly brought out countywide by the tens of thousands of voters who signed the petition to halt your self-awarded salary increase,” said Nguyen. “The will of the voters is clear, they do not want this Board of Supervisors to directly determine their own salary increase and believe any increase must be reasonable and accomplished in a transparent, independent and fair manner. As some of you have indicated you may explore a new salary increase proposal, we would recommend a citizens panel to oversee all future changes to the compensation of this board consistent of the principal of keeping you in line with the local consumer price index so long as the average increase is granted to county employee grounds meets or exceeds that number.”
Daniel Jamison, SEIU 1021: Thank you for listening to the public and I am looking forward to moving forward.
Cheryl Gruber, ASCME 2700: She questioned the methodology and requested that the same counties be used for employees as the County Supervisors use and all classifications should be studied to remain fair highlighting every job is equally important to the public.
Supervisor Mary Piepho:
“My personal feeling is we need the results before we act because it sends a bad message to not see this process through to the next step as we just heard. As I understand it, the count will continue until next week’s action to directly rescind the resolution and I feel that is appropriate.
Tabulating these petitions is in the regular course of business of the elections clerk and does not cost the county any additional revenue. Those that gathered these signatures labored over the holidays spent their union member’s dollars on this effort. Cold weather, and many rainy days and while I prayed for the rain, I know it was difficult on those signature gathers. Granted they were also gathering signatures to repeal the ordinance on the ban of plastic bags in the State of California, but hard work nonetheless. I imagine these people want and deserve those signatures to be validated.
I agree to stop this process and not cost the county $2.5 million dollars on a countywide ballot initiative each time a salary increase is justified by the Board of Supervisors. That does not make financial sense and will cost the taxpayers much more in the long run than the cost of this wage increase.
Based on the level of involvement of the community and based on the fact we as a board did not educate the community on our action, merits and facts of the situation and background, I heard a lot of things that were not true.
- 1: it is the law by voter initiative that we have to set our own salary. It’s not our own arbitration action. There is no agency, legislation body or process to take this action. We simply followed the law and legal process to introduce the ordinance.
- 2: It was not a raise as it has been called, but a salary adjustment. It helped to address compaction amongst managers of the county and moved us up 1 position in the ladder as described in the original board order. All of our department heads and elected officials stand higher, some much higher than the board of supervisors.
- 3: The time frame. I’ve seen people pick and choose their own time frames for this debate. IN 2006 we adopted a near 60% salary increase with the support from labor, business community, and the civil grand jury. It had been 10 years since any adjustment occurred prior to that date including zero cost of living increases. We took that action and none other since 2007, eight years ago. If we had implemented over that period of time a 4% increase each year, it would have totaled 32%. Which also describes why if we do not make an adjustment now, the salary will never catch up to our employees or Bay Area comparisons.
- 4: It’s not pensions spiking. Anytime an employee receives a raise or pay adjustment it is meritorious to the performance of job duties and has never been considered pension spiking. Pension spiking are abuses of companion such as vacation, sick leave buy-back, etc. and not salary. Salary is a market based reflection based on performance of job duties, nothing else. Since Board of Supervisors do not receive vacation pay, overtime pay, sick leave, we do not have a form of pension spiking. And since we must compete for our jobs every four-years, we are not county career employees in this rule. We may be here one-term, two, three, four, maybe five, who knows, we don’t. We never know how long the public will support us or how long we want to be here. These are unknown for each of us separately and distinctively. Including our predecessors and successors. For a full time job and more, we do have a pension, 2% at 55, which means 2x our years of service at 55 years old plus our retirement benefit.
Today, if Supervisor Andersen left her seat; that would be three years of service which would be multiplied by two giving her 6% of her annual salary as pension. $6,000 annually, less than $500 a month.
Me, if I chose to retire at the end of my term, my third term, which I am not planning on doing, I’d have 12-years of serve. 12 x 2 is 24%. $24,000 per year of pension income under my current salary. Equating to $2,000 a month for a job taking 1/3 to ½ of my salary to pay for my pension.
- 5: We are management. Top in responsibility top in accountability for the entire county. Every department, every employee, not just one single department. We manage a multi-billion county budget. Over 2.5 billion dollars, we do not get holiday or sick leave. We work many nights each and every week and most holidays if not all.
With our lack of response to the media and our county employees on this issue we have done a complete disservice to the public without educating them and informing them as to our roles and responsibilities. Not to the performance of any individual board member, but to the position we are honored to hold. Remember, we have predecessors and we will have successors, the salary adjustment proposal is for the position, not for the individual.
We have done a lot of things over the last few years that we are proud of. But we have been derelict in our duties, our effort and our successes like we did recognize at the recent board re-organization meeting.
We have saved jobs, we have protected vital public safety and public services, we have rebuilt the counties financial footing, protected and built up our budget reserves, funded deferred maintenance in our infrastructure, pre-funded our retirement and healthcare liabilities saving over a billion dollars and held the line in labor negotiations so we do not go backwards again.
We are being good stewards of the taxpayer’s dollar. We have rebuilt our credit rating back to AAA in the worst economic recession, downturn or including the Great recession. And we are the third highest populated county in the Bay Area.
In counterpoint, all the public has heard the last few months is the opposition’s rhetoric and poor or erroneous reporting. Tying our salary to California Judges is a benchmark, it is not an attempt to compare our roles to judges, responsibilities, but to tie our wages to state employee wages.
I don’t think any Politician or elected official should set their own salary, that is why I initially supported this effort. The voters of California correctly established an independent commission to set legislative salaries and I believe salaries of County Supervisors should be set independently as well.
Tying our salaries to a percentage of the judges pay has become an accepted standard in California and in several other Bay Area Counties. Judges salaries are set independently by the State Department of Personnel Administration and tied to state worker salaries, union employees.
If a middle class State Worker takes a cut, judges will and so would we. We did not explain that well to the public. Matter of fact, we did not explain it at all and neither did anyone else.
I want to go on the record now as to fact and no spin so its verifiable. Someone said we knew the salary when we took the job. I ask which employees are earning the same salary when they started their job in the county or the private sector. And our perks, our car allowance, these are legal requirements to the wear and tear on our personal vehicles used for work purposes and to compensate for our travel between work sites as defined in portal to portal act. All employees have the same benefit in value and they should.
Personally, like my fellow Supervisors, my job requires me to work all over the state and not just the boundaries of my district. Our meetings are not only held here in these Chambers on Tuesdays. They are held throughout the week on a variety of issues and often cross over into weekends and every single holiday.
Unfortunately, some believe Supervisors work begins and ends at these Tuesday meetings on Tuesdays and they could not be more wrong. The bulk of our duties and responsibilities occur outside.
I almost didn’t vote for this the first time it was presented last year but I did because it’s the law to do so and I support the Statewide practice to tie Supervisor salaries to those of represented state workers. It is an unbiased, neutral third-party model. It is transparent, independent and fair. It’s a model that benefits the employee, the taxpayer. Its unbiased and completely transparent. We are responsible for each and every county employee, manager and elected official salary including county administrator.
We did not act first to increase our compensation, we acted with our County Administrator in 2013 and our elected county heads in mid-2014. And for that period of time, for those unions in contract negotiations we worked with them to negotiate their wages and benefits while meeting revenue availability.
Neither the Sheriff’s Deputy Association nor Public Employees (Local 1) were in negotiations in 2014 or even this year. They aren’t until July 1, 2016 a year and a half from now.
Today on consent, we had a proposal before us to increase compensation of county counsel and public defenders to $234,000 each. That would have been an annual cost of over $73,000 for 2-people and two-positions. These are bay area average salaries, they are not elected, they do not have to live in the county or the district they serve yet make more than twice the annual salary of the Board of Supervisors. And it matches the District Attorneys salary, another Bay Area average. Each of these manages just one department, important departments, very important departments but singularly focused.
Not a single person is here to discuss how those wages are too high, should not be granted, the county can’t afford them, etc. Again, one of these positions is elected.
So my friends, to put it more simply, this is a no win situation and one that will be very difficult to overcome in the public’s opinion. Minimally, we need a formula to follow to remove the arbitrary perspective the public sees in raising our own compensation and stay in the market of wages as we work hard for the wages to meet in our overall 8,000 county employees as well.
Or we implement an annual salary adjustment to take place regularly and consistently each year regardless. Absent that, we should get past this exercise and move on to rebuild the public trust and gain their confidence that we are here to serve them.”
Supervisor Karen Mitchoff piggybacked off Supervisor Piepho’s comments highlighting she did not write out her comments as Piepho did. She was frustrated with the personal attacks and the unions behavior.
“This is a very emotional issue. It has nothing to do with the salary. It has nothing to do with the money. I also want to correct a thought, this was not unanimous by the voters. The voters in fact have not voted. What happened is this was signature gathering and that is fine, its part of the process and I respect that process but a majority of the public in Contra Costa County has not spoken on this issue so I want to be very clear that this was 4% (rounding up to 40,000 signatures) of over 1-million people living in this county—granted they are not all registered voters but if you just cut that in half its still about 10% so lets be very clear this was not unanimous.
One of the things that has bothered me most and actually I was asked about it by a member of the media, was the comment made by several of the labor leaders that this was not personal.And I grant you the issue is not personal because its part of the process. The Board took an action, and there was a process by which members of the public could speak to the issue. That is fine, I have no problem with that.
What I do have a problem with is the lack of respect that has been afforded to the members of the Board of Supervisors. We can agree to disagree on issues, but the lack of respect. The comments made in social media personally attacking myself and my colleagues are not okay. I don’t monitor social media. Anyone in this position is told not to do that and we don’t. I don’t have time and I don’t think my colleagues do either. But I have friends in the community as do you, and they have been appalled by the name calling and various characteristics for a better word that have been associated and described to my colleagues and myself. That is not okay.
When I talk about a fracture in a relationship between management and labor. That is at the heart of it. We are both going to have to work very hard to repair those relationships. It isn’t a matter of one side coming in or another side coming in and we just sit down and move forward. There will have to be a repairing of relationships. I am committed to doing that, I am elected to do that by the constituents of District 4, but as Supervisor Piepho mentioned we represent the entire county of Contra Costa and we represent contra costa to the State of California.
I very much appreciate Supervisor Piepho’s comments about what our job is. If there is anything that I have recognized is not only when I accepted this position 4-years ago, but that our public did not know what a member of the Board of Supervisors do, I now recognize that our employees, in my opinion, do not recognize what the members of the Board of Supervisors do. To an extent, that is alright because you come to work every day and you toil hard and I recognize because I been in some of those department and worked in other departments and how dedicated our employees are to serving the public. But you work in one-department, you have a merried of jobs within the department but its very evident to me and assume to my colleagues, that as we work it out. I meet more with county employees on county issues than I do on constituents and its apparent to me, again, that there is a lack of knowledge about what others throughout the county do. We saw that in our discussion not only several years ago, but now relative to what group is more important to another group.
As mentioned here by one of the speakers saying every job is equal, we can debate that at another time but there is obviously a feeling within the county employee ranks that not every job is equal. We try very hard to balance that responsibility and service provided. So again, this has been a very difficult situation, I want to be very clear that I do respect there process that was carried out, but we need to move forward in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. I would also ask that we do ask our county administrator to come back to us next week with possibilities—we need to move on, we have so many more important things to deal with…
By law we have to set our salary which is why I support the metric. One of the harshest things that has been said is we think we are judges or we think we are as important as a judge. Let me be real clear here. No I don’t, but if you look at the rest of our agenda, there are several hearings on this agenda and one of the first things we are told at what we call A, B, C, D, 1, 2, 3, 4 Training, which is ethics training we take every 2 years, is we sit in a quasi-judicial role and we cannot make decisions ahead of time.
So, whether you agree with that or not. We do have to take into account facts and figures and legal situations and we do pass judgment on a number of issues that come before us and I see nothing wrong with setting a metric that is tied to a Statewide standard that our fellow colleagues throughout the State of California and Bay Area take into account.
I will be supporting the motion but I do ask our county administrator come back on January 20 with some options of how we move forward on this issue.”
Supervisor Candance Andersen hoped to move past this issue and continue working on items to help the County move forward.
“I think it has been a challenging two months for all of us and its something I am looking forward to having this put behind us. It was challenging for our public employee unions who spent much of their holiday season gathering signatures. Bottom line, my perspective is I am hearing they do value what we do I agree with both Karen (Mitchoff) and Mary (Piepho) that not everyone fully understands the role of a Supervisor. I’ve had people say well is it really a full-time job. I smile and say it’s a 12 and 14 hour per day job so there is that misunderstanding. The feedback I’ve had from many is you do work hard, you do deserve to be fairly compensated. There opposition, those that signed the petition was it was really just too much at once and they would like to see us take it out of our own hand. I am looking forward to us coming back looking at a smaller raise of course, perhaps phasing it in overtime and looking at the alternatives, perhaps that when the action comes back next week.
Perhaps having a citizens panel is one opportunity, even a judicial salary as Mary (Piepho) provided is tied to state wages… I am not sure we had the right percentages but that is something we can talk about next week.
But I do want to say I do respect each one of you and appreciate the demeanor we have been able to carry on and accomplish the things, work of the county despite having a difference on this issue and I look forward to continue working with our county staff and putting this behind us and moving forward.”
Supervisor Federal Glover noted the gap of understanding what Supervisors really do.
“I think there is a large gap of understanding and what really takes place. I appreciate my colleagues comments and I support them. It’s unfortunate that many of the people that were in this room, the opposition, got up before any of that was stated. I look forward to next week,” stated Glover.
Supervisor Gioia closed the discussion by saying that they are all on the Board to serve and the reason this is on the agenda is because they were listening.
“We all have to remember that everyone is important in this process. Our employees serve an important role, we serve an important role. The nonprofits we work with serve and important role. There is a place for all of us. What has made this county successful is we have been a team. From the management role to employee to elected level. Hopefully we can continue to do that,” said Gioia.
Approved 5-0. The item will be on next week for a final vote.