Imperial County Supervisors Rescind Own Pay Raises After Public Outcry

Ruth Duarte, a representative for the Teamsters Local 54, took to the podium Tuesday to express her opposition to board’s proposed compensation increase.

EL CENTRO – Reacting to outrage among community members, county staff and several bargaining units, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors decided to revoke their own controversial 34 percent board compensation pay increase during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

According to Rodolfo Aguayo, the Imperial County Director of Human Resources, the human resources, in conjunction with the County Executive Office, met with a chairman-appointed ad hoc committee to evaluate the current compensation structure for the Board of Supervisors. Ad hoc committee members included Supervisors Ryan Kelley and Raymond Castillo.

“In considering a restructure, the compensation of other boards of supervisors in other counties, including Kern, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo and Ventura, was studied which showed that the average monthly compensation for the comparison boards is $10,203.12 — approximately 54 percent more than this (Imperial County) board’s compensation of $4,697,” explained Aguayo.

Similarly, a review of the compensation for other Imperial County elected officials, including the Sheriff/Coroner, District Attorney, Auditor/Controller, Assessor, Clerk-Recorder, Treasurer/Tax Collector, and Public Administrator/Guardian/Conservator, shows an average monthly compensation of $10,209. This is also approximately 54 percent more than the Imperial County board members’ compensation.

The proposed compensation increase would have moved the Board of Supervisor’s monthly member compensation from the current flat amount of $4,697 to 40 percent ($6,301.37) of the regular annual salary for a judge of the Superior Court of the State of California, resulting in a 34 percent pay increase.

“The Board of Supervisors meets here on a regular basis,” said Raymond Castillo, District 5 supervisor. “What you see here is probably ten percent of our total duties and responsibilities as a county supervisor. The 90 percent you don’t see.”

Castillo also noted he also serves on numerous agencies and committees.

Supervisor Jack Terrazas, chairman of the board, agreed with Castillo and added the numerous hours the board spends preparing for meetings. Terrazas said he suggested the board look into the matter.

“I was the one who pushed this thing (pay increase) to come through to the table for discussion,” said Terrazas. “This issue is here for discussion to see what the feelings are from the public before the supervisor,s because this is an item that is always mentioned and never floats because of bad political timing. There’s always bad political timing. But I think if you want to have the proper timing, this is probably it.”

Ruth Duarte, a representative for the Teamsters Local 54, approached the podium during Tuesday’s meeting and expressed strong opposition for the item. Duarte said she believed timing didn’t matter, and it was the fact that the resolution was written incorrectly.

“We elected you to be there,” said Duarte. “You guys (supervisors) ran, and I don’t think it was because of your salaries, because if that was the case, I would have run for that seat. The employees also work 115 percent and just received a two and a half percent pay increase July 1, and you did too. In that case, we too would like to have a 40 percent pay increase. I think you should throw it in the trash and make a compensation study for everyone.”

District 4 Supervisor Ryan Kelley replied to Duarte and said he was not in favor of the compensation amount but was in favor of removing themselves (board) from the yearly county employee compensation negotiations.

Duarte also suggested placing the item on the November’s voting ballot, providing the community the opportunity to vote in favor of against the action.

Professional Employee Group Representative Miguel Coronel mimicked Duarte’s comments, commended the Board for their hard work but also proposed the board do an overall comparison for all county employees before making a decision.

“We work hard for our positions and can assure we provide one hundred percent and even more for the positions that we hold” said Coronel. “Just like you, we also compared our positions with other County employees and have expressed these differences in the past and we were turned down from that comparison. The question here is, what justifies you, the Board of Supervisors to compare yourselves to those counties and not the employee professional group?”

Subsequent to the numerous comments and concerns Supervisor Ryan Kelley suggested the Board refrain from making a decision until a thorough study on compensation for all county employees is conducted in the near future.

Supervisor Michael Kelley, District 3, agreed with Ryan’s suggestion and said they would bring the item back to the board once a full evaluation was completed.

“I have a very deep passion for Imperial County, and I have a passion for future of Imperial County, and I have a passion for the county employees,” said Michael Kelley. “When I ran for the Board of Supervisors I wasn’t looking for a paycheck, I just wanted to do the right thing for thing for the County of Imperial. It doesn’t bother me to get the same raise as any other county employee. I think it’s fair. But I do know the amount of stress and workload this board goes through and I, for one, couldn’t live with giving myself a raise, but I do agree with Mr. Kelley’s suggestion and if we are going to evaluate this position, then we should evaluate all positions.”

Supervisor John Renison, District 1,  said he also agreed with the other board members.

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