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EL CENTRO — The Imperial County Board of Supervisors postponed the budget hearing due to a misunderstanding with department heads regarding documentation pertaining to budget augmentations. The budget hearing was postponed until September 17, where several augmentations were reviewed by the board.

Presentations from different departments, including the assessor’s office, Behavioral Health, county clerk-recorder, District Attorney, probation office, and sheriff’s office were heard by the board. The departments appealed the denial of their budget augmentations.

County CEO Tony Rohoutas recommended denial of augmentations to the supervisors. However, he stated that some of the augmentations were denied by his office for the sole purpose of having the augmentations brought to the board in a public forum.

Augmentations for the assessor’s office was the only department who’s augmentation was denied by the board.

The county clerk-recorder’s office approved augmentation request will allow the department to obtain a new hire to help continuing county services. Recently, County Clerk Chuck Storey temporarily suspended the scheduling of new marriage ceremonies due to lack of staff. Storey explained his intention of resuming marriage ceremonies as soon as the department is able.

Assistant District Attorney Deborah Owen spoke on behalf of the department, hoping to have their augmentation request approved. Owen expressed her frustration with the CEO’s decision to deny the augmentation. 

“We are concerned about the decision to recommend denial of our budget augmentations. The denial of the request and others like it ... create[s] the appearance of favoritism towards other departments and retaliation on the part of our department,” said Owen.

She continued to discuss the work done by her department and their lack of appropriate compensation.

“Employees should be fairly compensated. Employees that have earned promotions, should be promoted. Employees in good times and in bad times, should not be treated as indentured servants,” said Owen. 

Owen referred to the agreement that was made by the board of supervisors and District Attorney Gilbert Otero after the attorney strike earlier this year. 

“We can’t ignore that at the end of the strike, you stood in this room with DA Otero and promised that you would allow deputy district attorneys to a DDA 5 position when they met those qualifications. In return for this, DA Otero agreed to give up one clerk position and one attorney position. He gave up something in return for your promise. That had value. There is funding available because we made it available to you. The money is there, yet now you deny all the promotions for deputy DAs in our office,” said Owen.

Chairman Ryan Kelley assured Owen that the agreements that were made with Gilbert Otero and the department have not been forgotten or abandoned.

CEO Rohoutas denied the augmentation so it would be brought to the board in public forum. The augmentation had several different line items, not all of which the board agreed to. The board approved the augmentation with the exception of a line item involving moving funding for an investigation program to the general fund.

Owen agreed that it was not necessary to move the program to the general fund, but was presented in the augmentation based on a recommendation by a previous employee. The agreement that was made after the attorney strike is being honored and the board has not fallen back on their word, according to Kelley.

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