It seems nothing is ever routine when dealing with San Bernardino County. After searching the county’s website and not finding what I needed, I submitted a request under the California Public Records Act for the base salaries of the members of the Board of Supervisors earlier this week for a couple of other projects I am working on with no expectation of writing this article.
As is my usual practice, I submitted the request to David Wert, Public Information Officer for the county. Wert usually replies quickly with the needed information unless the county does not want to give it up. Then I must wait about 10 days for a letter from County Counsel wanting some exorbitant amount of money to “research” my request.
I could not imagine there could be a problem in this situation as this information is public record even if not easily found on the county’s website. However, after two days I had not heard back from Wert.
I sent off an email to Wert to make sure he received my request. I was surprised to learn that Human Resources was getting the numbers for me. Late that evening I received an email with the top chart in the photo above.
The email included this note from David: “The salaries are difference [sic] because implementation of Measure Q requires application of the new formula to some board members at different times than others.
“You had also asked whether there is an ordinance or board item setting salaries, and the answer is no, the voter-approved County Charter sets the salaries, and the Charter supersedes ordinance and board action. Recalculations are performed by Human Resources and go into effect upon verification by the Auditor-Controller.”
Well, he certainly knows me well enough to figure I would question the results. And even with his explanation, I questioned further as there should only be two amounts: one for the First, Third, and Fifth Districts and one for the Second and Fourth Districts.
Base salary for the First, Third, and Fifth Districts is still calculated under Measure P, passed by the voters in 2006, which gave the supervisors a $50,000-a-year raise. That will change in December of this year when the supervisors or their challengers are sworn into office for the next term.
When sworn into office in December of 2012, Supervisor James Ramos declined the latest raise under Measure P. Therefore, he is the lowest paid supervisor. As seen in the chart, both Supervisors Robert Lovingood and Josie Gonzales took the raises. The difference is $6,739 a year.
Base salary for the Second and Fourth Districts is calculated under Measure Q, which was passed by the voters in 2012. That measure slightly reduced supervisor salaries because it removed Los Angeles County from the equation to determine average county salary. The new salary took effect December 1, 2013.
Supervisors Janice Rutherford and Curt Hagman were elected to their current terms in November 2014 and were sworn into office in December 2014. The salary chart above shows that Hagman is, in fact, receiving the new lower salary but Rutherford’s salary remains $8,819 higher. As a matter of fact, she has the highest base salary of any county supervisor.
Wert could not explain why Rutherford’s salary is so much higher. The Charter of San Bernardino County, which is where the formula and rules for salaries is set, says this in pertinent part:
On December 1, 2013, compensation to be paid to members of the Board of Supervisors shall initially be established based on a survey of the compensation payable to members of the Board of Supervisors in the comparison counties. If the compensation paid to members of the Board of Supervisors is greater than the average compensation payable to Board members in comparison counties, salary shall be reduced such that compensation is within the comparison amount. . . . Thereafter, compensation shall be recomputed every four years on December 1 based on a new survey of the compensation . . ..
In an article published in The Sun on November 12, 2012, reporter Joe Nelson wrote:
Supervisors Janice Rutherford and Gary Ovitt, who are up for re-election in 2014, will be the first supervisors – or whomever succeeds them should they not get re-elected – to have their salaries and benefits adjusted.
Well Gary Ovitt chose to retire rather than be defeated. Rutherford won re-election. Based on both the charter and the article above, Rutherford should be receiving the same base salary as Hagman.
Measure Q was Rutherford’s brainchild to confuse voters and defeat an opposing measure that would have reduced their salaries to $60,000 a year. Both measures received voter approval but Measure Q received the most votes so it was the one enacted. It seems appropriate that Rutherford’s salary should be reduced. We have to ask why that was not done.
Perhaps there is a valid reason. A technicality in the law would not surprise me. Or an oversight. Or some other logical and legitimate explanation. But one way or another we deserve an answer. If we receive one, the story will be updated.
Below the requested information in the photo above, is the chart that is on the county’s website showing total compensation for all of the county’s elected. This is base salary plus benefits.