For more than a year and a half the Orange County Board of Supervisors has been arguing with its bargaining units that it has no money for employee raises, and that the county must “live within its means.” Apparently living within their means doesn’t apply to the Supervisor’s cronies. On Tuesday they will consider creating new classifications for their aides that would boost the maximum pay for their chief executives by more than 16 percent ($18,242).
When county supervisors began negotiations with their bargaining units in 2012 they told general employees that they needed to reduce overall compensation by 16 percent. When negotiations ended with the largest bargaining unit earlier this year, the Board accepted a mediator’s proposed agreement, those employees received a 1.25 percent increase in base pay and 1.25 percent one time (non-base-building) bonus of which was mostly offset by increases in healthcare contributions. When coupled with the excessive increase in employee contributions to pension plans imposed by the Supervisor’s appointees on the Orange County Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees, that meager salary increase was more than erased.
Just when their cronies begin to start paying their share of pension costs, the Board is creating new position classifications that boost the amount supervisors can pay their chief’s of staff. Board offices are not required to adhere to county policies related to the pay of their staff members. At any time, the supervisors can increase the pay of any staff member. So while the current proposal states that the new classifications will not automatically increase pay for any current cronies, the claim is meaningless.
Currently, there’s only one job classification for Supervisor’s staff, executive aide, with a salary range from $29,993 to $112,881. According to the staff memo accompanying the proposed classifications:
“It is best practice to establish separate pay ranges for each of the four job classifications that are commensurate with the level of complexity and scope of responsibility for each class.”
“The changes proposed for your Board’s consideration are in alignment with equivalent internal classifications and will provide sufficient compensation to attract and retain competent staff for members of the Board and elected officials. Additionally, selecting salary ranges that are currently used for equivalent internal classifications will allow for both elected official and County department staff to transfer between assignments in Board offices and the County bureaucracy.“
That last part is critical to the proposal on deck for Tuesday’s meeting. As Voice of OC has reported; “Recently, County Supervisor Pat Bates questioned HR officials from the supervisors’ dais on those restrictions asking how they would deal with a wave of political aides from outgoing supervisors looking for jobs given the 2013 HR policy.”
The county’s history of awarding raises and promotions to staff from board offices, while transitioning them into positions they did not have to compete for, is well documented. It is conceivable that the policy could be overridden or ignored in the future in order to facilitate transitioning board cronies to county civil service jobs without those aides having to compete, or even meet minimum qualifications, for those positions.
So in addition to allowing for 16 percent raises for their most senior cronies, the proposal sets up a fast-track to move their politically appointed cronies to the front of the line, and then use “special training” discussed during the budget hearings on June 10, 2014 to help them meet minimum qualifications.
Note: The text of the above two paragraphs has been rewritten for the purpose of clarity. The previous version incorrectly stated that the Board could easily override existing HR policy regarding transfers of board aides to other county positions.
While we’re not surprised, we are disappointed at their brazen disregard for the policies and procedures established to supposedly fairly and appropriately recruit and compensate employees into the county family.