Board of Supervisors OK own pay increase

Despite widespread opposition from local employee unions, the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors voted to give themselves a $32,000 raise during their meeting last week.

The increase stems from the board’s decision to tie their pay to a percentage of the county’s Superior Court judges’ salaries, which is routine among other counties in the state.

The 4-1 vote to approve the switch means supervisors will receive 70 percent of what Superior Court judges are paid, bumping their annual salary by 33 percent from $97,476 to $129,216. District II Supervisor Candace Andersen cast the lone dissenting vote.

The jump means the supervisors will be the fourth-highest paid in the Bay Area and eighth-highest paid among the 12 urban counties in the state when the increase takes affect in January. Prior to the latest bump, Contra Costa County Supervisors were the lowest paid in the state among urban counties and were only above their counterparts in Napa County in the Bay Area.

Board Vice Chair John Gioia said the decision alleviates the need for the board to vote on its own future salary increases.

“Any time a salary increase comes to us for ourselves, it is one of the most unpleasant tasks we’ve had to face,” he said.

The supervisors last adjusted their salaries in 2006, when they voted to increase their pay by 60 percent to $95,568. They received a 2 percent cost of living increase in 2007, but have taken wage reductions from 2009 to 2013. Contra Costa County becomes the ninth urban county in the state and the sixth among all in the Bay Area to connect supervisors’ pay to that of superior court judges.

Anderson, the only supervisor to vote against the raise, said the 33 percent increase was too much at one time. She suggested the board phase in the increase over several years, but her idea fell on deaf ears.

“A raise of this magnitude is not acceptable to the public and certainly not to our public employees,” she said. 

Employee union representatives jumped on the board’s decision, questioning the size of the increase and wondering if their members would receive similar deals. The majority of county employees received a 4 percent increase in their latest agreements.

“I’ve tried to put myself in your shoes and come up with a reason why I’d give myself a 30 percent pay raise, and I’ve struggled to find a legitimate reason,” said Ken Westerman, the president of the county’s Deputy Sheriff’s Association. “What your message does is completely undermine the collective bargaining process. We’ve bargained in good faith for raises we got, the modest ones, and you want to give yourself a 30 percent raise? It’s not right.”

Added Gayle Walls Burns, a county eligibility work supervisor: “I can say in all my years I’ve never been as disgusted and outraged as I am at the arrogance of County Administrator David Twa, and also the Board of Supervisors, as I am at this time.”

District V Supervisor Federal Glover sympathized with the vocal opponents, but said the supervisors have long needed to end the right to vote for their own raises.

“It’s unfortunate that we have been in a position where we are in control of our own salaries,” he said. “This (decision) is not comfortable, but it’s necessary to make sure that we have found a way to levy this so this is not in our hands.”

District III Supervisor and Discovery Bay resident Mary Piepho, whose service areas include Bethel Island, Blackhawk, Byron, Diablo, Discovery Bay and Knightsen as well as Antioch, Brentwood and Oakley, declined comment.

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