Four members of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, including Federal Glover and Mary Piepho, who each represent portions of Antioch, voted to give themselves a 33% pay raise, on October 28. Their pay, in January, will increase from an already generous $97,476 to more than $129,000 per year. They also tied their future salary increases to what judges in the county get paid. Plus, their action will also increase their pensions.
The question is, why do the Supervisors feel they need a full-time salary for what’s supposed to be a part-time position? They have full-time, professional staff to run the day-to-day operation of the county, namely the County Administrator and his department heads, and all their staff, much like a Council-Manager city. (See county organizational chart, here). Plus, there are the county-wide elected officeholders who run their own departments, including the District Attorney, Sheriff, Treasurer-Tax Collector, Clerk-Recorder, Auditor-Controller, and Assessor, although their budgets are approved by the Supervisors.
But, unlike city governments, in California, a county is actually an administrative division of state government, and has the responsibility for implementing and refining the local application of state law and policy. They don’t make their own laws, as cities do. As a result, the county only has discretionary control over about 15% of its budget.
Plus, the Supervisors only govern the unincorporated areas of the county. Most of the residents in the county live within the boundaries of the 19 cities. Of the 1,049,025 county residents, as of the 2010 Census, 889,740 lived within city boundaries, and only 159,285 lived outside. That’s all the people the five Supervisors actually have to serve, directly. While that’s 30% more than the county’s largest city, Concord, none of their council members are full-time, nor earn anywhere near the Supervisors’ current salaries or benefits.
Supervisors are elected to be policy makers, not full-time officeholders, and merely have to give direction to their staff to implement their policies.
In addition, each Supervisor has their own office and paid staff to be available to county residents and business owners, to deal with their concerns and problems they may have with the county government.
According to their own webpage, following are their “Duties and Responsibilities”
As defined by general law, the duties of the Board of Supervisors include:
- Appointing most County department heads, except elected officials, and providing for the appointment of all other County employees
- Providing for the compensation of all County officials and employees
- Creating officers, boards and commissions as needed, appointing members and fixing the terms of office
- Awarding all contracts except those that are within the authority delegated to the County Purchasing Agent
- Adopting an annual budget
- Sponsoring an annual audit made of all County accounts, books, and records
- Supervising the operations of departments and exercising executive and administrative authority through the County government and County Administrator
- Serving as the appellate body for Planning and Zoning issues
Serving as the County Board of Equalization (the Board has created an Assessment Appeals Board to perform this function)
They meet as a Board, once a week, on Tuesdays. They choose to hold their meetings during the day, instead of at night, which is unfortunate for their constituents who have day-time jobs. But, that’s another issue I’ll save for another time.
The Supervisors may have chosen to work their positions on a full-time basis, but it’s not necessary.
There are three examples I can think of regarding Supervisors who understood that fact. When Mark DeSaulnier was on the Board of Supervisors, he also owned, operated and worked at his restaurant, T.R.’s Bar & Grill in Concord. When Bob Schroder was a Supervisor, he also worked at his insurance business in Walnut Creek. When Tom Powers was a Supervisor, he was also a lawyer and Realtor in the county.
The only current member of the Board of Supervisors who has a potential other career, is John Gioia, who is a licensed attorney. But, he stopped practicing when he was elected to the Board – by choice.
The current members of the Board need to remember they don’t need to work their positions on a full-time basis and should rescind their recent, ridiculous 33% pay raise.
They should follow the lead of the newest member of the Board, Supervisor Candace Andersen, who not only voted against the raise, stated she will only accept the same average 4% raise the rest of the county staff received. I applaud her actions. That will still give them a salary of over $101,000 per year, which is very good for a position that doesn’t require a college degree, as neither Glover nor Piepho have.
Referendum under way
There is currently a referendum effort by county employees, including their main union, Local 1 and the Deputy Sheriffs Association, to place the raise on the ballot and reverse the decision of the four Supervisors. For those who agree it should be rescinded, you can learn more by visiting www.cocodsa.org/referendum, attend one of their meetings this week or next, sign the petition, and even get your own petition to gather signatures, to help place it on the ballot.
This is one time the people need to rise up and send our elected representatives a strong message that what they did was wrong and needs to be reversed.