Measure Reducing Supervisors’ Compensation To $60K Sent To November Ballot

It appears that a measure which would, if passed, reduce the compensation of each of the members of the board of supervisors to $5,000 per month has qualified for the November ballot.
The Red Brennan Group last year began circulating a petition to force the referendum, gathering 75,132 signatures which were affixed to copies of the petition. Those documents, consisting of 10,121 pages, were handed over to the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Office on March 20.
According to Registrar of Voters Bob Page, a “3% random sample,” of the signatures, consisting of 2,255, were examined. Of those, 1,840 were found to be the valid signatures of registered county voters and 415 were what Page deemed “insufficient.” He found among the valid signatures one duplicate. Thus, he projected, were the full 75,132 signatures to be examined, 60,228 would be determined to be valid. The three percent sampling standard can be used to certify an initiative petition drive, Page indicated, if the sampling projection shows that more than 110 percent of the required number of voter signatures have been attained. The 60,228 signatures is equal to 112.1 percent of the 53,725 signatures needed to qualify the initiative. “Therefore,” Page said, “the petition has been signed by the requisite number of qualified electors needed and based thereon is deemed sufficient.”
The Red Brennan Group, which is named after the late government reform advocate who qualified a similar initiative for the ballot in 2012, in 2017 undertook petition drives to qualify two countywide initiatives, one aimed at reducing members of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to part time status and imposing on that panel’s members a commensurate reduction in pay, and another more comprehensive measure dubbed the “Leadership Accountability Initiative.”
That measure called for reversing the county’s 2010 move which changed the title and authority of the county chief administrative officer to the county chief executive officer, which had also conferred on the post higher pay. The Leadership Accountability Initiative eliminated the chief executive officer post and reestablished the county administrator position, pegged compensation of elected officials – supervisors, sheriff, district attorney, treasurer/auditor/controller and assessor – to a multiple of the median family income in the region, and eliminated further accrual of retirement benefits by elected officials. The initiative further sought to restrict bloat within the county’s governmental structure by placing a per capita limit on the number of county employees. It also required the supervisors to use every legal means available to ensure county government employee pay and benefits were equal to private industry pay and benefits in the San Bernardino County jurisdiction.
After the initiative proposals were submitted in 2017 to the county’s stable of in-house lawyers, known as the office of county counsel, the county sued the initiatives’ proponents, claiming the initiatives violated the California Constitution, the current legal authority of the supervisors, and the single subject rule for initiatives. In its lawsuit, the county contended it therefore should not be required to complete its ministerial duty of providing a ballot title and summary for the initiative proposals.
At that point, the Red Brennan Group postponed its efforts, consulting with legal authorities before proceeding. Following that legal guidance, the group is now moving ahead, having narrowly drawn a series of separate reform proposals, each limited in scope so that it cannot be challenged as violating the single subject rule for initiatives. The pay reduction initiative is the first salvo in a series of reform measures the group intends to proceed with.
The language of the initiative states: “The total compensation of each member of the board of supervisors shall be five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) per month, which amount shall include the actual cost to the county of all benefits of whatever kind or nature including but not limited to salary, allowances, credit cards, health insurance, life insurance, leave, retirement, memberships, portable communications devices, and vehicle allowances. This compensation shall be in full compensation for all services by the respective member of the board of supervisors.”
Now that the petition has been found to be sufficient, pursuant to Elections Code Section 9115(f), the registrar of voters will present the certificate of initiative petition to the board of supervisors at its May 19, 2020 meeting, at which point it is anticipated the board will acquiesce in the matter being slated for a vote in November.
-Mark Gutglueck

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