On Friday the San Bernardino County Safety Employees’ Benefit Association (SEBA), the union representing sheriff’s deputies and other sworn personnel working for the county of San Bernardino, released the results of a community survey. The survey was completed to gauge residents’ attitudes towards county law enforcement.
Of those participating in the survey, 88 percent say they support and appreciate the work of deputies; 78 percent say they support raises for the deputies while 56 percent did not realize the deputies declined a raise during the recession. Only 12 percent oppose such a raise.
When the county claimed it was having financial hardships, sheriff’s deputies were among the county employees who agreed to forgo raises. Now that the county has recovered, under the leadership of County Executive Officer Greg Devereaux, Chairman of the Board James Ramos, and Vice Chairman Robert Lovingood, the county is playing hardball with the unions yet they recently voted to give raises to their personal staffs who are among the highest paid employees in the county.
Some bargaining units have settled while others continue to negotiate. SEBA declared an impasse last year after months of negotiation.
“We are disappointed our San Bernardino County leaders have forced us to declare an impasse in our contract negotiations,” wrote SEBA president Laren Leichliter in an email. “When the County was broke we helped by forgoing raises and living up $28 million in additional concessions, which the County said they would reinstate. After four years, they have not kept their promise.”
“Now the County is sitting on a $450 million surplus, and just spent an additional $5 million to get public input on the multi-million-dollar project titled the ‘county-wide vision,’” he said referencing what some say is the county’s attempt to come into compliance with the United Nations Agenda 21 agreement.
Part of the issue with the SEBA contract and all other collective bargaining contracts in the county is that two of three of those in leadership are anti-union and anti-employee. CEO Devereaux, whose base salary is $315,751 and total salary and benefit package is around a half million dollars a year, is known to relish in union busting and takeaways from line staff.
Vice Chairman Lovingood, whose total salary and benefits package at $278,576 is the highest of any member of the board of supervisors, owns a temporary employment agency and is vocal about county employees being overpaid and lazy. He has suggested agencies terminate employees and replace them with temporary employees who receive little over minimum wage and no benefits to cut costs.
During his 2012 campaign for election to the Board of Supervisors, Lovingood made a campaign promise to make public safety in the First District a priority. Instead, the district is facing higher crime rates.
That point was noted in a comment to byteclay.com from Rick Roelle, who retired as a Sheriff’s Lieutenant working at the High Desert Detention Center said, “It’s very apparent the current Board of Supervisors has not made public safety a priority. Today the Sheriff’s Department is one of the lowest paid in Southern California and has a very hard time recruiting qualified people. Couple with that the fact that there are hundreds of empty jails cell at the new High Desert Detention Center because the BOS will not fund deputy positions, crime is out of control in the high desert.
Hesperia Mayor and former sheriff’s deputy Bill Holland, who like Roelle, is running against Lovingood for his seat on the Board of Supervisors, said that he is extremely disappointed in the Board of Supervisors in their apparent lack of recognition that sheriff’s deputies deserve fair pay and treatment. “Every member of the Board of Supervisors campaigned on public safety as the top priority,” he said.
Supporting public safety is a theme echoed by former Victorville Councilmember Angela Valles, “I believe it is government’s number one role to protect the people. It is disturbing to know that our First District Supervisor Robert Lovingood is not prioritizing public safety as he said he would in his 2012 campaign.
“Yet Supervisor Lovingood has prioritized increasing his net profits in his ICR staffing agency by receiving government contracts using his influence, which is clearly a 1090 violation,” Valles continued. “He has the second highest paid staff in the county for part-time consulting. It’s time to replace Robert Lovingood with a candidate such as myself who will prioritize public safety and work for the people’s best interest.”
Hesperia Mayor pro tem and businessman Paul Russ also weighed in on the impasse, “I find it unconscionable that the Sheriffs renegotiated their contract around 2008 when the when the County was having some financial problems and then the County recovers and they all of a sudden have amnesia about the salary and benefit cuts and refuse to restore or negotiate in good faith!
“First responders should be the number one item in the County budget! Without them we are not safe or free,” concludes Russ.