To ensure junior employees aren't making more than their bosses in the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and District Attorney's Office, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved salary and benefits increases for executives in both those departments.
"My managers should not be penalized or punished because they are (non-union)," District Attorney Paul Zellerbach told the board before its unanimous
vote in favor of compensation adjustments for 25 employees in the District
Attorney's Office and 11 in the sheriff's department.
"They should not be sacrificial lambs. The situation reminds me of a phrase: penny-wise and a pound foolish," Zellerbach said. "How much money would we really be saving and at what cost by penalizing the leaders of the D.A.'s office?"
Zellerbach and Sheriff Stan Sniff reiterated arguments they made to the
board in early June that compaction -- the point where lower-level unionized
employees are earning more than their at-will superiors -- was impacting morale
and creating internal conflict.
"We're in deep trouble and suffering from dysfunction," Sniff said. "There's a large gap to close, and it hasn't been dealt with."
Department of Human Resources documents indicated that, as of July 1, a
chief deputy sheriff was earning 16 percent less in total compensation compared
to a sheriff's captain. In the District Attorney's Office, senior-level prosecutors were earning roughly the same pay as a supervisor.
The disparities were the result of salary and benefits cuts mandated by the board over the last three years to reduce budgetary pressures. Executives in all departments -- who don't have civil service protection and can be fired without cause -- were the first required to absorb reductions.
Cuts were also imposed on workers represented by collective bargaining units. However, in the last year, all of the county's unions have secured multi-year contracts that include cost-of-living increases, merit pay increases and other expanded benefits.
In exchange, workers agreed to pay more toward their own pensions.
In June, the board backed away from rectifying compaction and boosting
executives' pay, citing concerns about costs.
However, the supervisors appeared swayed today by Sniff and Zellerbach's
arguments that leaving the status quo intact would make recruiting people
into the upper echelon impossible.
"We run very lean. But we still need those critical players," Sniff said. "Executives in the sheriff's department are drawn from the captain ranks. It's critical to have that command and control. Otherwise, it would create a monstrous problem for the sheriff's department."
Zellerbach said having assistant district attorneys whom he enticed out of retirement to help him "right the ship in the justice system" earning salaries comparable to the most senior line prosecutors was unacceptable.
"We need to treat them fairly and not penalize them for the sake of making some political statement," Zellerbach said
Zellerbach offered to cover the $300,000 in fiscal year expenses to implement the salary and benefits increases from his own budget.
The sheriff's department's increases will cost around $500,000 in 2012-13.
The county's budget, on paper, remains tentatively balanced. Under the compaction fix approved by the board, executive-level prosecutors will receive compensation increases of between 5 and 9 percent, while sheriff's executives will receive increases of between 10 and 18 percent.
Board members expressed a desire that any future salary adjustments be based primarily on performance- or merit-based policies.
"Somebody may get a raise, and somebody may not," said Supervisor Marion Ashley. "It's important to do this because you should feed the horse that pulls the wagon."