On Tuesday, the Orange County Board of Supervisors was poised to hire a new CEO, Chandra Wallar from Santa Barbara County. They took a straw vote and were in unanimous agreement that she was the candidate they wanted to hire. Then came the salary discussion, which sent that train right off the rails. The problem they faced was that their favored candidate wanted a salary boost from the amount that former CEO Tom Mauk was paid when he departed last year.
To the dismay of Supervisor Bates a few weeks ago, OCEA representatives raised concerns that Wallar was asking for a salary boost over what CEO Mauk was paid to cover the increased cost of pension contributions required by law. OCEA’s concerns were proven accurate when it was revealed that indeed, Wallar’s base compensation was proposed at $290,000, indeed an increase of $36,ooo annually. Coincidentally, the amount covers her required pension contribution.
In addition, the contract proposal would have granted 200 hours of Annual Leave time after 30 days of employment. This is significantly more than what any other executive could receive under existing policy, regular employees must simply accrue their leave balances based on hours worked. The conversation got diverted to an attempt to compare what she would take home in pay to what Mauk was taking home. The discussion of Ms. Wallar agreeing to pay her normal employee cost really was not even negotiable, since state law requires new employees to pay those costs.
The negotiation team of Supervisors Bates and Nguyen chose to use the concept of total compensation to get around the issue of her having to pay the employee share of pension costs. Their idea appears to have been that “we’ll just pay her instead of paying the pension fund on her behalf.” They tried to say that Wallar was actually being paid less, because her take home pay would be less than Mauk’s
When it came down to the vote on salary, the Board simply could not agree. Supervisor Moorlach was willing to go to $275,000 only if the $15,000 relocation payment was removed. Nelson and Spitzer held firm on a base pay equal to the $254,000 Mauk received.
The Board’s dance reminds us of the classic School House Rock number “Conjunction Junction”. Though we think the video could be reworked with the title Dysfunction Junction.
Ultimately, the Board could not pull together enough box cars to make a train and hire Wallar. There were other examples of dysfunction yesterday. Be it Supervisor Nelson moving to the next agenda item if his colleagues were unable to make and second a motion within 10 seconds, the dabate over the response to the Grand Jury report on CalOPTIMA, selection of candidates for Auditor-Controller for interviews, or the report on the Internal Audit investigation over the purchase of a building several years ago for the Clerk-Recorder. These folks just could not seem to get it together yesterday. Check out the Board Meeting video, agenda items 18 and 29 for examples, in addition to the full discussion of the CEO appointment under item 33.
Maybe, their next three weeks of scheduled time off will give them some time to figure out how to do their jobs rather than worry about their next political positions, and pandering to special interests and lobbyists.
Dysfunction Junction, board, what’s your function?