Voters To Consider Supervisors’ Pay Reduction Measures In November

(October19)  San Bernardino County voters are being tasked with deciding whether to support or reject two separate county governance reform measures that touch upon adjusting the compensation of members of the county board of supervisors.
One initiative, Measure R, would radically downscale San Bernardino County supervisors’ annual $151,971 salaries and $67,500 in benefits to $50,000 in salary and $10,000 in benefits annually, a drop in total compensation from $219,471 per year to $60,000.
That measure made it on the ballot through the somewhat unlikely confluence of efforts of  Wrightwood residents Kieran “Red” Brennan and Eric Steinmann, who drafted and initially circulated the petition for the ordinance as a means of reducing the salaries and benefits of county employees in general by starting at the top, and the county’s two largest employee unions, who adopted the petition drive to put the initiative on the ballot as an act of defiance against the board of supervisors because of  that panel’s expressed intention of reducing county employee benefits.
Another initiative, Measure Q, was placed on the ballot by the board of supervisors itself. It calls for a far more modest trimming of the supervisors’ compensation, a $5,269 reduction in their salaries to $146,702.per year, while allowing their annual benefits valued at $67,500 to remain in place.
The San Bernardino Public Employees Association, known by its acronym SBPEA,  and the San Bernardino Safety Employees Benefit Association, known by the acronym SEBA, pumped more than $100,000 into the effort to get Brennan and Steinmann’s measure before the voters. SBPEA represents most of the county’s general line employees. SEBA represents sheriff’s officers and district attorney’s office investigators. As the proponents of Measure R, SBPEA and SEBA maintain Measure R is justified because supervisors’ salaries and benefits are far too generous for the duties they perform – attending meetings twice a month and overseeing the governance of the county’s unincorporated pockets that sit outside the city limits of the county’s 24 incorporated municipalities.
The unions note that county supervisors over the last two years have reduced their meeting frequency from roughly four meetings per month to two per month, while delegating much of their responsibilities to county staff, and significantly increasing the authority of county chief executive officer Greg Deveraux.
The county’s charter currently categorizes  San Bernardino County supervisors as full-time elected employees whose annual salaries  are based on the average salaries paid to supervisors in Riverside, Orange, San Diego and Los Angeles counties. Voter approval of Measure R will reduce the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to a part-time status.  Measure R equates “part-time” with the requirement for attending a minimum of two regular board meetings each month, while permitting county supervisors to be employed full-time elsewhere.
Notably, the two candidates now vying for supervisor in the county’s First District, which is the largest San Bernardino County supervisorial district geographically and thus involves the most unincorporated land subject to supervisorial governance, support Measure R.
Sheriff’s lieutenant Rick Roelle and employment agency owner Robert Lovingood are locked in a battle to succeed incumbent supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, who elected not to seek reelection this year in lieu of an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to be elected to Congress.
Roelle, who will soon be eligible to pull a pension of close $130,000 per year, and Lovingood, who is independently wealthy, are unconcerned that the post they are vying for could see its total annual compensation reduced to $60,000.
Opponents of Measure R argue that “the county needs supervisors who are able to spend the required amount of time carefully scrutinizing the $4 billion annual budget that serves the 2 million people that live within our communities.” Measure R would also reduce the combined supervisors’ staff budgets from $6 million to $1.5 million a year.
Supervisor Gary Ovitt, who draws a hefty public pension as a retired school teacher on top of his supervisor’s salary, asked the county counsel’s office to draft Measure Q, which has no provision for a reduction in the supervisors’ staffs.
Measure Q, eliminates Los Angeles County from the formula of averages for the supervisors’ pay. The supervisors dismiss the suggestion that they have reduced their workload, saying they continue to work closely with Devereaux in formulating the policies he is charged  with carrying out.
“We have not given  up any of our authority,” Ovitt insisted. Collectively, the supervisors have said the impetus behind Measure R was the seriousness with which the board and Devereaux were engaging the unions on the issue of salary and benefit concessions.
The unions began assisting Brennan and Steinmann when the supervisors floated the concept of a ballot initiative to put future pension increases for county employees up to a public vote.
Opponents of Measure R are alleging that disgraced former supervisor and assessor Bill Postmus was involved with Brennan and Steinmann in formulating their measure. In their anti-Measure R campaign, the initiative’s opponents  are set to allege Postmus was the go-between who put Brennan in contact with Steinmann at an early crucial moment when the signature-gathering effort for the supervisors’ compensation reduction effort was just starting.
Brennan, however, told the Sentinel that he knew Steinmann before he knew Postmus.
Brennan said he did not believe Postmus had any involvement in the effort to gather petitions to qualify the measure for the ballot or to promote the measure now that it is headed to a vote.
“I can only speak from what I have experienced, but I have not seen Bill at all,” Brennan said.
He said his motive in creating the initiative and pushing to get it before the county’s voters was simply that “I believe the county supervisors are overpaid for what they do. It may be a full time job, but from what little I’ve seen, they are not working full time. Even if it were a full time job, that is a lot of money to get paid. They are paid more than some CEOs get in the private sector.”
The proponents of Measure R insist that Measure Q is a cynical attempt at sleight-of-hand to fool the voters and have them accept a bogus version of reform. Meanwhile, current supervisors and the other proponents of Measure Q insist that the impetus behind the qualification of Measure R for the ballot was the unions’ animus at the board for seeking to reduce spending in a context of dwindling revenue availability for local governments.

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