Editorial: Putting the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisor Pay Increase into Perspective


Over the past week, emotions have run high after the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors decided to vote themselves a $32,000 pay raise.

Under the ordinance, each supervisor’s salary will equate to 70 percent of a Contra Costa County Superior Court judge’s pay which is set by the State Legislator. They used a salary study to include the Bay Area counties: The counties of Alameda, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma.

The move to take a $32,000 raise to increase their salary from $97,500 to $129,200 came after the Board of Supervisors had told employees of the County they had no funds and instead county employees agreed to 4% increases in 2014 and another 3% in 2015.

For some perspective on the burden of cost, the raise to the Board of Supervisors was a total of $160,000 onto the county, that equates to a single position such as another County Probation Officer or even a Battalion Chief.

While it’s difficult to justify anyone giving themselves a 33% single bump in pay—this was the first pay increase in nearly 9 years. Averaged out over the 9-years (33/9), this pay increase accounts to just 3.66% each year if they took an annual increase.

Board of Supervisors SalaryOn Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors knew there was going to be resistance to the raise and knew they needed to highlight that they were the second lowest paid county supervisors just above Napa County. They also highlighted when it came to Contra Costa County, compared to Department Heads, which they are classified as, they are the lowest paid.

For some perspective, I encourage anyone to go to the Contra Costa Times 2013 Salary Survey for County Employees. Spend some time on it because its a real eye opener.

With regards to the current $97k Base Pay, the Board of Supervisors had nearly 800 County employees making a higher base salary. http://www.mercurynews.com/salaries/bay-area/2013. Under the new ordinance of $129k, the Board of Supervisors still have 275 county employees making a higher base salary.

When looking at the 2013 total Cost of Employee (Overtime, vacation, sick leave, medical benefits, pension contributions, etc) the Board of Supervisors fall much farther down the rankings:

  • Supervisor John Gioia – $189,693 (estimated 1,100 workers ahead of him)
  • Supervisor Federal Glover – $180,663 (estimated 1,400 workers head of him)
  • Supervisor Karen Mitchoff – $173,612 (estimated 1,700 workers ahead of her)
  • Supervisor Candace Andersen – $167,828 (estimated 1,750 workers ahead of her)
  • Supervisor Mary Piepho – $166,209 (estimated 1,750 workers ahead of her)

While on the surface, a 33% wage increase appears shocking, its important to for people to understand that none of the Supervisors ranked in the top 1,100 employees in 2013.

For some perspective, here is a look at what “middle management”,  workers that tend to be in leadership positions within a particular department, earned in 2013 (note, we have removed the employees name and did not include OT).

While we certainly do not want to single out any position, but why is the Board of Supervisors $97,500 salary less than the LAFCO Executive Officer who makes $127k? A County Pharmacist making $133k? A CONFIRE Battalion Chief making $144k? A Sheriff Captain making $133k? First 5 Executive Director making $127k? A Sheriffs Lieutenant making $110k? A county librarian making $109k?

Here is a look at some of the positions (does not include Overtime or benefits):

Position TitleBase Salary
Asst County Counsel-Exempt County Counsel$161,760
Chief Asst County Admin$156,145
Asst Fire Chief-Exempt$152,591
Asst Sheriff-Exempt$151,739
County Probation Officer-Ex$149,611
Asst Dir Of Health Svcs$148,445
Attorney Advance -Chld Sppt Svc$147,914
Deputy Public Defender Iv$146,203
Deputy District Attorney$146,091
Battalion Chief (56-hr) CONFIRE$144,942
Assistant Sheriff$143,462
Deputy Director of Public Works$136,757
Deputy Director of conservation Dev.$136,757
Sheriffs Chief of Forensic Services$136,548
Battalion Chief (40-hr) CONFIRE$135,577
Deputy Retirement CEO$134,076
Pharmacist – per Diem$133,728
Deputy District Attorney-Basic$132,418
Captain – Sheriff$130,081
Assistant County Auditor Controller$130,080
Children & Family Service Dir.$129,801
Board of Supervisors (Proposed)$129,216
LAFCO Executive Officer$127,785
First 5 Executive Director$127,522
Director of Mental Health Services$127,352
Deputy Public Works Director$127,164
First 5 Deputy Director$126,788
Deputy Public Defender IV$126,117
Assistant Director of Human Resources$125,002
Staff Nurse$124,621
Family Nurse Practitioner$120,477
Health Services Education and Training Spec$120,477
First 5 Finance & Operation Direct$118,954
Supervising Civil Engineer$117,683
Clinical Lab Manager$117,502
County Librarian$117,443
Assistant County Probation Officer$116,684
Employee Benefits Manager$116,323
Forensic Manager (Sherriff)$116,178
Capital Projects Division Manager$115,668
Alcohol/Other Drug Services Dir.$114,886
Nursing Program Manager$114,644
Public Health Nurse Program Manager$113,207
Ambulatory Care Clin Supervisor$113,061
Advice Nurse$112,954
Principal Real Property Agent$111,999
Info Systems Manager$111,457
Nursing Shift Coordinator$111,349
Captain (Emergency Services)$110,365
Lieutenant (Sheriff Police Services)$110,366
Administrative Lieutenant (Sheriff)$110,365
Director of Haz Mat Program$109,989
Assistant Director of Airports$109,397
Registered Nurse – Advanced$109,384
Sr. Traffic Engineer$109,152
County Librarian$109,080
Network Manager (public defender)$107,922
Info System Project Manager (Library)$107,922
Fire District Info System Manager$107,922
Info System Manager 1 (Dept. Child Supp)$107,922
County Surveyor$107,866
Land Information Bus Ops Manager$107,764
Retirement Investment Analyst$107,725
Probation Director$107,512
Fire Captain (56-hr)$107,475
Quality Management Program Coordinator$105,643
Facilities Maintenance Manager$105,539
Fire Inspector$105,263
Deputy Co Clerk Recorder$104,931
Telecom Manager$104,914
Principal Planner (Conservation & Dev)$104,784
Sr. Civil Engineer$104,395
Stormwater Poll Cont. Manager$104,395
Pharmacist 1$104,367
Dept. Sheriff Criminalist$104,206
PW Field Operations Manager (Public Works)$104,189
DA Sr. Inspector$104,036
Database Administrator$102,709
Chief Accountant$102,459
Chief Auditor$102,459
EHS Division Manager$101,780
Lieutenant (Sheriff)$101,732
Personnel Services Supervisor$101,318
Business Systems Manager$100,743
Probation Manager$100,342
Associate Civil Engineer$99,797
Calif Children Services Program Admin$99,649
First 5 Grants Program Manager$98,436
Employee Benefits Supervisor$98,000
Director office of Comm/Media$97,604
Board of Supervisor (John Gioia)$97,483
Board of Supervisor (Federal Glover)$97,483
Board of Supervisor (Karen Mitchoff)$97,483
Board of Supervisor (Mary Piepho)$97,483
Board of Supervisor (Candace Anderson)$97,483
Real Estate Manager$97,281
Engineer – project$97,176
Fire District Chif/Admin Services$97,044
First 5 Early Chd Dev Prog. Spec$96,543
Chief Pediatric Therapist$96,350
Assistant Facilities Mnt$95,969
Assistant Dir-Rehab Ther Services$95,953
Aids Program Director$95,684
Fire Engineer /56-hr$95,340
First 5 Evaluation Coordinator$95,153
Utilization Review Coordinator$94,859
Registered Nurse – experience level$94,797
Registered Nurse – advanced$94,668
Health Services Info Tech$94,392
Ultrasound Technologist$94,274
Payroll Systems Administrator$94,096
Deputy Director – Animal Services$91,876
Sergeant (Sheriff)$91,620
Human Resources Project Manager$91,230
Procurement Services Manager$91,183
Assessors Customer Service Coordinator$90,446
Public Health Nurse$89,925
General Services Facilities Supervisor$89,543
Probation Supervisor$89,244
Engineer – Journey Level$88,250
Pre-Hospital Care Coordinator$87,084
Labor Relations Specialist (HR)$86,297
Contracts Administrator$85,980
Sr. Fire District Dispatcher (56hr week)$85,756
Social Worker Supervisor$85,302
Sr. Human Resources Consultant$82,676
Sr. Community Library Manager$82,336
Law Librarian$82,289
Homeless Services Program Dir$81,570
  • Note: Many classifications listed above have multiple employees in the same classification such as nurses, fire engineers, firefighters, Lieutenants, captains, etc. Meanwhile, BOS have just 5 positions. Some of those positions also get overtime which does not count towards the base salary.

As we as a country are still digging ourselves out of an economic downtown, especially in Contra Costa County, its hard to see anyone getting a 33% raise, but if we want to continue to be competitive and attract the best we get we need to be able to pay a competitive rate. This goes for not only the Board of Supervisors, but all positions.

If the unions were smart, instead of trying to embarrass the Board of Supervisors, they would be better off supporting this increase and using this salary survey to their advantage in all future negotiations.

The county employees now hold the power in future negotiations because of the new salary survey change which was used. If the negotiations go poorly, there is always the 2016 election where Supervisors Andersen, Glover and Piepho can be replaced.

When looking at the big picture and the estimated million residents in the county, this $160,000 increase to the Board of Supervisors equates to just 16-cents for each Contra Costa County resident.

Will Candace Andersen Accept Raise?
With Candace Andersen being the lone vote against a pay increase, the question now becomes will she accept the raise if its approved Tuesday? It’s easy to vote “no” when you know a pay raise will be approved by four other supervisors, but its another thing to reject it when the check is cut. Will her increase be donated will be telling of how she really feels about the raise.  Time will tell.



  1. I knew county employees were paid well, but WOW. I just learned that they are paid VERY well. Thanks ECT for the figures, I am less pissed than I was Tuesday.

  2. No matter how you spin this ECT, no one deserves this kind of raise. Vote out Piepho and Glover in 2016 and recall Gioia and Mitchoff immediatly!

  3. Funny how the unions and the public did not care that the City of Brentwood just voted themselves a giant pay raise of 60%. Where the heck were they a few weeks ago? This entire outrage over their pay is just a scam to fatten their union wallets at the negotiation table. Shame on everyone.

  4. Have to agree with reality check. Since county workers are the ones negotiating for their own raises or those of their friends the system is gamed all along.

    Cities, Counties, States and Federal government need OUT SIDE real negotiators like the businesses use on the unions. NO longer political but run like a business.

  5. What would be wrong with the BOS negotiating with their constituents before ruling on a pay increase ?

  6. They should get no more than the worst off group of employees of the county has received in the same time period. They should also be contributing to their own pensions and health care…to the exact same percentage. What’s good for the goose…

  7. When news first broke last week, many seemed to be rightfully angry at, and felt completely disenfranchised by, the Contra Costa County Supervisors’ vote for a 33% pay increase for themselves. However, some of that initial anger and engagement seem to be dissipating already, which is precisely what the supervisors are hoping for.

    What will work in their favor, and work to encourage similar self-enriching decisions in the future is for the community and the voting constituency to forget and/or lessen their engagement after a week or two.

    What many people I heard over the weekend are saying—and this seems to be somewhat reflected in the comments posted on your site—is that this is a political party thing: it’s those Liberal Democrats or it’s those Greedy Republicans who want austerity for everyone but themselves…or else it’s become an issue about unions.

    All of those are distractions. This issue is not about political parties or political affiliations. The Board of Supervisors are actually very well mixed in terms of their political party identification. And certainly, this issue should not be cast as a union thing.

    While unions who represent the hard-working county employees are very vocal and leading the charge against this raise, it is an issue and a decision that will affect every tax paying citizen in Contra Costa County, whether Republican, Democrat or independent.

    It will affect very citizen in Contra Costa County, whether unionized or not, whether working in the private sector or the public sector.

    What’s at hand—the true issue upon which to focus—is bad decision making and self-serving votes by elected officials. Nothing else matters.

    The supervisors can claim it’s “leadership” or that they’re “putting this matter out of their own hands” all they want, the end result is it will be a 33% increase for them. They will all take home an additional $32,000 a year come January of 2015.

    They are doing this at a time when they’ve been pleading poverty for five, six, seven years; they are doing this at a time when they’ve told their county workers that we all must share in the sacrifice when times are tight; they are doing this at a time when they won’t allow their employees to use the same counties for salary studies that the supervisors choose to use to enrich themselves.

    Most importantly, they are doing this at a time when, just as the economy is picking up again, they place themselves at the front of the line before their employees.

    I don’t know what you want to call that kind of mentality and that kind of decision making, but it’s certainly not leadership.

    Leaders don’t look to enhance themselves first before their lowest-paid employees.

    The Supervisors make, currently, $97,500. The County has employees who make $9 an hour. In fact, the County has many workers in classifications who are making an annual salary that is less than both the federal poverty level as well as the Contra Costa Self-Sufficiency Threshold.

    Just a few short months ago, all five supervisors applauded Rise Together, an organization whose singular goal, according to their website, is “to cut poverty [in the bay area] in half by 2020” because “1 in 5 bay area residents living in poverty is unacceptable.”

    This organization was before the Board of Supervisors at one of their meetings. All five supervisors could not stop gushing about how passionately they believed in this cause. In fact, Supervisor John Gioia is currently listed by Rise Together as a sitting member of their Steering Council.

    Given their recent, enamored rhetoric about seriously doing something to uplift bay area residents in distress out of poverty, it is highly unprofessional, highly disrespectful, and completely unbecoming of elected leaders to choose to enrich themselves first and foremost.

    East County Today published an editorial that tried to put the supervisors’ pay increase into perspective. It listed the salaries of some county employees. Some of the readers then said, “oh, this makes me less angry,” or “I didn’t know county employees made that much money.”

    This is very problematic because, for starters, the list of salaries East County Today posted are for directors and managers. They are the most highly paid employees in the county. What East County Today didn’t post—and subsequently, what readers and constituents didn’t see—are the salaries of the majority of the rank-and-file workers who daily provide the excellent services all of us depend on and enjoy.

    Public Employees Union, Local #1 has a spreadsheet of classifications of county employees that we represent (and this is only from our membership, not including the classifications of workers other unions may represent in the county) down a left hand column. And then, to the right of those classifications, we have three additional columns under the headings: Federal Poverty Line, Contra Costa Poverty Threshold, and Contra Costa Self-Sufficiency Threshold.

    On a quick skim, of the roughly 330+ classifications Local #1 represents, there are 290 or so that fall squarely under those thresholds. That is a mind-blowing 87% of classifications of Contra Costa County employees that are paid a salary or wages that fall below, or within, federal poverty line, county poverty threshold, and county self-sufficiency threshold.

    How does a group of elected leaders say it’s not about self-enrichment, that it’s about leadership, when they vote themselves a 33% raise—in one fell swoop—when 87% of their county workers are paid poverty, or near-poverty wages to the point of falling into one of those three categories?

    And these supervisors dared to say from the dais last week that they have said numerous times they are committed to bringing their workers’ salaries up to comparable standards with other counties.

    They have to bridge a 16% to 38% gap with nearly all of their employees. How will they do that? What is their plan?

    Simply saying they are committed to it is empty lip service.

    And if they are truly committed to that goal, when will they do it? At the next round of bargaining? Starting with the health care reopener this upcoming spring?

    But here’s the simplest, most revealing question: if they do try to bring their employees’ salaries to comparable levels, will they do it at 16% or 38%, or any percentage in between—IN ONE FELL SWOOP—like they granted for themselves?

    The issue at hand is about bad leadership making bad decisions, nothing more, nothing less. I encourage the angry to stay angry, the engaged to stay engaged, and the distracted to refocus on the actual issue.

    • PEU Local #1 (aka Phil),

      Apparently full disclosure which offered a better perspective on this issue has upset your little rage rally. I cannot fault ECT for providing more details and actually comparing “apples to apples”.
      Thanks for pointing out your union allegiance which often results in blindness. Yours is a textbook example.
      I’m sure in your role you are under the gun to do everything you can to level the playing field, however in the real world (public and private) pay stratification and structure will always exist between “rank and file” and management positions.
      Each and everyone of your arguments can be put to rest by applying the details you conveniently omitted and ECT pointed out.
      Thank you ECT for giving us perspective that is sorely lacking in today’s journalism.

  8. What makes me the most angry is that, when calculating a comparable salary structure from which to bargain with for the employees, they took a median from 8 bay area counties. The Board made the union throw out San Francisco and Santa Clara counties because the cost of living in those counties was higher than Contra Costa, and therefore the salaries are high. Those 2 counties have the highest overall salaries of all 9 Bay area counties. They made the employees use Sacramento and San Joaquin counties instead. This is what an employee told me months ago that his fellow union members told him.

    Yet, when they come up with a median to base their own raise on, they include San Francisco and Santa Clara counties. THAT is what I consider outrageous. I do not dispute that they need or deserve a raise. I think 33% in one fell swoop is, at the very least, in poor taste, considering the union had to bargain for 10 months to get 4%. But at a bare minimum they should play by the same rules they forced upon employees. That is what is despicable about this.

  9. What makes me the most angry is that, when calculating a comparable salary structure from which to bargain with for the employees, they took a median from 8 bay area counties. The Board made the union throw out San Francisco and Santa Clara counties because the cost of living in those counties was higher than Contra Costa, and therefore the salaries are high. Those 2 counties have the highest overall salaries of all 9 Bay area counties. They made the employees use Sacramento and San Joaquin counties instead. This is what an employee told me months ago that his fellow union members told him.

    Yet, when they come up with a median to base their own raise on, they include San Francisco and Santa Clara counties. THAT is what I consider outrageous. I do not dispute that they need or deserve a raise. I think 33% in one fell swoop is, at the very least, in poor taste, considering the union had to bargain for 10 months to get 4%. But at a bare minimum they should play by the same rules they forced upon employees.

  10. What about the salaries of the front line staff? The people who I come in contact with when I visit county agencies. The people who have the power to either serve me well or cause me frustration. Those who carry out the work so the county agencies function. Where are their salaries listed in this article? Better yet, we would like to see their take home pay after their contributions to health care and retirement, which I would assume are mandatory deductions. Health care is now a requirement and I would think past employee’s retirement is partially covered by current employee’s contributions.
    In addition, this article did not mention the added retirement that will need to be paid out by the tax payeres based on the Supervisor’s increase of 33% .
    Our county deserves full transparancy of the facts, so that we can better decide if this raise seems reasonable.

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