The five countywide elected officials — assessor/county clerk/recorder, auditor-controller, district attorney (DA), sheriff/coroner and treasurer/tax collector — had possible pay raises, between $35,000 and $60,000 annually, denied.
At its Dec. 6 meeting, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted against raising the salaries of these five officials.
The county’s Human Resources Department (HRD) submitted a proposal to increase the district attorney’s and sheriff’s salaries by 12.7%, from $273,463 to $308,197 and to increase the salaries for the other three elected county officials from $195,192 to $256,814, a 31.6% increase.
County Executive Officer Jeff Van Wagenen told the board that “the challenge we’re facing is that each number 2 in these departments is making more than the number 1. In July, the third level of management in the DA and sheriff’s will be making more than the DA and sheriff.”
The staff positions below the department heads are appointed and their salaries are set by the board based on the HRD’s recommendations to maintain competitive rates for hiring. The DA received a salary boost in 2018, but the last increase for the other four officials was in 2014.
By state law, supervisors’ pay is tied to 80% of what a superior court judge makes.
When the discussion began, Supervisor Karen Spiegel (2nd District) recommended continuing the decision so that the board could develop a process for this decision now and in the future.
“The process has been so vague over the years. Some of these folk have not received any compensation increase since 2014. We really need to look at how we’re doing this,” she told her colleagues.
In support of Spiegel’s proposal, 3rd District Supervisor Chuck Washington acknowledged, “The difference between this group of five and the five of us is they are all elected countywide and also have responsibility to run a department, which we don’t do. That probably warrants a higher pay than supervisor which it is.”
When asked how long it might take to respond to Spiegel’s recommendation, Van Wagenen thought it might be possible for the Dec. 13 meeting, but easily for the Jan. 10 (2023) meeting.
While board Chair Jeff Hewitt, 5th District, refrained from comments, both supervisors Kevin Jeffries (1st District) and Manuel Perez (4th District) indicated their opposition.
“As elected officials, we know what we’re signing up for. I really don’t see any reason to propose higher salaries” Perez said.
Jeffries also mentioned that the board rejected a $1.50 per hour increase for in-home service workers the week before. While the total dollar amount might be close, the difference between $1.50 and $61,000 is significant. “How do you reconcile that in the public eye?” he asked.
He affirmed his position: “There’s nothing you’re going to say that’s going to convince me that an elected official, who knew what he or she was going to get when they came into office, without even publicly asking for it, deserves a pay raise.”
Spiegel’s motion to continue the issue was defeated 3-2. She and Washington were the two votes for further study.
The board then voted 4-0-1 against the actual increases. Spiegel abstained and the other four supervisors voted “No.”