Inyo Board grants pay raise to CAO


CAO Kevin Carunchio speaking to the Board in 2009, two years after he was hired.

In hard economic times, some Inyo citizens questioned the Board of Supervisors’ vote to give their County Administrator a roughly $1400 per month raise plus additional benefits.

CAO Kevin Carunchio went to work for Inyo County in 2007.  His contract allowed a re-evluation for more pay but he declined to take advantage of that stipulation.  This year, Carunchio did go for a pay raise.  The Board and Carunchio had met more than once in closed session.  Tuesday, the Board voted unanimously to raise Carunchio’s pay from approximately $11,787 per month up to $13,201. The Board also agreed that the County would match retirement contributions Carunchio makes up to 2% of his salary.

Supervisor Chair Susan Cash said Carunchio “has been working quite diligently for a number of years at the same salary we hired him in at as an inexperienced administrator.  He has proved his worth and then some,” said Cash.  She noted that Inyo County pays lower than surrounding agencies.  She called Carunchio a work horse.

We did speak with Carunchio who said the Board unanimously granted him what amounts to a 12% increase in pay and an additional retirement benefit. “Every dollar I put in,” he said, “they put in a dollar up to 2% of my salary.”

On the same agenda, the Board also considered creation of an Assistant County Administrator position and a Senior Deputy County Administrator with changes in job descriptions.  Carunchio explained that his own former Deputy CAO position has remained vacant and that current Deputy CAO Chuck Hamilton announced he will retire in April.  So, Carunchio said, he asked to recruit and fill just one of the two Deputy CAO positions. The job description will be broadened and Carunchio said he would look for people with the “strongest skill sets.”  The CAO also said that if he gets someone with ten years of experience, he would recruit for a high level position.

Asked to respond to public complaints about his raise, Carunchio said that he understands their perspective.  He said, “I consider myself extremely blessed.  I have a job I love in the place I love and work with good people.  I am also well compensated.”  The CAO said he appreciates the vote of confidence by the Board.

Asked about his benefits as CAO, Carunchio said he gets the exact same benefits as other county workers – medical insurance, 2% at 55 retirement, a life insurance package and deferred compensation.  Carunchio’s new yearly salary amounts to roughly $160,800, plus about 1/3 of that for benefits.  An amount, as others have noted, mostly lower than other administrators’ pay in the Eastern Sierra region.

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30 Responses to Inyo Board grants pay raise to CAO

  1. Charles James January 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm #


    What other counties do with respect to their CAO’s level of compensation is up to their own voters and elected officials. Very few jobs- if any- in the public or private sectors, are based on the “per capita” approach that you used. Compensation is usually based on the qualifications of the employee, accomplishments, experience, education, importance of the position to the employer, difficulty filling the position, comparable salaries of other CAOs with similar responsibilities and circumstance, and so on.

    The compensation for the Mono County CAO and the Inyo County CAO are roughly equivalent. The City Manager for Mammoth Lakes earns over $200,000, while the City Manager for Bishop makes $152,989.00 (according to the League of California Cities 2010 Salary Survey). These are the “comparable compensations” for our local public administrators in the Eastern Sierra being used. Is it too much? Well, many obviously think so, but it is our elected officials who make the decisions on the level of “appropriate compensation” for public employees. If we don’t like their decisions, then we should “raise hell” and vote them out of office. This “issue” does not appear to have risen to that level.

    Your point that “Inyo and Mono counties consist mostly of public lands…”, actually underscores the very difficulties faced by both Inyo and Mono Counties’ CAOs. It is no small task to deal with multiple agencies with differing agendas, and often with conflicting goals and regulations. Seeking approvals to accomplish anything is daunting and time-consuming even under the best circumstances. CalTrans, BLM, NPS, INF, DFG, LADWP, Great Basin Unified APCD, governmental environmental agencies, local tribal governments, are only the tip of the iceberg. There are also national and local non-governmental environmental organizations, such as the Sierra Club, the CA Native Plant Society, Friends of the Inyo, and many others that weigh in on almost every action contemplated, including those clearly beneficial, by the County.

    You are entitled to your opinion- as is everyone on this forum- but while you, me and others don’t agree on this issue, it would be nice if forum discussions were kept free of the ad hominem attacks that sadly are found all too commonly on them, especially those hiding behind the cloak of anonymity- although anonymity for some has its place and necessity. Comments such as “local politicians are stroking themselves…”, or that “Mr. Carunchio is preparing to retire, therefore he wants the bigger salary to up his retirement” are unfounded…and un-provable, as are the accusations that administrators are “lackies of the politicians” or speculation that “someone likely lost their $8/hr county job to pay for your (Carunchio’s) well-earned raise.”

    Skier, let me end by saying that, while I do not agree with you and a few others on the appropriateness of Carunchio’s compensation, I respect your right to disagree. Frankly I was going to move away from this forum discussion but I felt that out of respect for your latest posting that I would not end it without giving the rationale, per your request, for my position.

    Don’t think for one minute that I am unsympathetic to the legitimate concerns that we taxpayers have of excessive salaries and overly generous pensions for many public employees. I welcome and share your concerns, especially when so many in the private sector are unemployed, underemployed, and often underpaid, without health benefits, and with little or no hope for relief or retirement.

  2. JJ January 3, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

    Charles James I agree with most of your statements. Except the part about not being able to put a price on it. If he created several hundred good paying jobs around here, then maybe I would agree. Tell then,no.

    • Charles James January 4, 2012 at 11:10 am #

      JJ, thanks for your comments.

      The subject of the appropriate level of compensation for public servants is an important- and long overdue issue- that needs to be addressed, along with many other issues on what is or is not the appropriate role and cost of government at all levels- local, state, and federal.

      My comment that “You cannot put a price on that” was limited to my opinion of Carunchio’s attitude towards his work. It was clearly not an endorsement of unlimited monetary compensation.

      I stand by my comment that he “is worth every dime he is paid…”- based on my personal assessment from meetings and events that we have both attended. Others have, and are entitled to, a different opinion. I respect that.

      BTW, the CAOAC website,, has links at the bottom of the page to surveys on compensation for County Administrative Officers in California. (, as well as for City Managers (

      Every county is different, so what these surveys cannot show are the difficulties faced by each individual CAO with respect to the resources available to him or her in their respective counties. (For example, the level and size of direct supervision of others required by the position; the effect of local politics and constraints imposed by other governmental agencies and regulations; limitations on funding; the difficulty of providing services because of the size of a county; the difficulties of geographic distances between population centers; the viability of the business and industry environment, and so on.

      • skier January 5, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

        Mr. James,
        Thanks for the spreadsheet. This proves what I just said. Inyo and Mono county administrator’s salaries are bracketed by;
        Madera County: population 152,924, salary $165,547 (roughly $1/person)
        Fresno County: population 948,928, salary $169,150 (roughly $0.18/person).
        Compare this to
        Inyo County: population 18,125, new salary $168,000 ($9.27/person),
        Mono County: population 13,558, salary $170,975 ($12.61/person).

        Lets not forget that Inyo and Mono counties consist mostly of public lands administered by the Federal government, with very few roads, almost no industry, very little intensive farming, and ?
        I seriously can’t find any good reason that the compensation is so high, except that the local politicians are stroking themselves and those who allow them to keep up the good work on the taxpayers dime and none of us complain enough.
        Sierra, Colusa, and Glenn counties have no CAO, and Modoc has a combined CAO/Transportation Director at $150,000.
        So Mr. James, please give us the details of why Inyo county is so difficult to manage and why this salary is justified. Thanks

        • skier January 5, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

          OOPS, I correct myself, Inyo County salary is 160,800, or $8.87/person. Also I estimated the 457 benefit wrong, the county will pay up to 2% matching, or $3216/year, this of course is not counted in the $160,800.
          Still pretty fat I think.

          • JeniferCastaneda January 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

            Skier, Benett reported that the correct amount was $160,800 PLUS 1/3 more ($53,600) in benefits.

  3. skier January 2, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    Where is the “budget crunch”? Apparently not at the higher levels of Inyo County Gov. This amounts to 3%/year in salary for the years employed, but the 50% match for 457 contributions is where the county really gets socked. I’m pretty sure that the rank and file did not recieve 3% every year since 2007, maybe someone who knows can find out and post this. Carunchio’s pay before the raise was exorbitant compared to regular employees, he earned in 3 months what most earn in a year, but the supervisor’s will barely squeak out 1% raise for those folks.
    Mr. Carunchio is preparing to retire, therefore he wants the bigger salary to up his retirement. If he is within 3 years of 50, he is eligible to put extra cash into deferred compensation (457 plan, not retirement, he also has CALPERS) to make up for past lack of contributions or just because he is close to retirement. I believe he is probably eligible to contribute up to $20,000 tax free, which will now be matched by US (the taxpayer). Some people around here LIVE on $20,000/year, imagine how they would feel if they could double their money!
    Interesting, because the Inyo Board of Supervisors is notorious for telling rank and file to tighten their belts. Wake up people! What does the County Administrator actually do? What has he done to deserve this salary?
    UptheCreek and Rob, this is where the pension money becomes unfair and ridiculous. Why should we pay this guy $200,000/year? (or more?)

    • P&B January 3, 2012 at 9:33 am #

      Bingo!!! And the politicians, that are suppose to be serving the constituents, are paying KC off for the “servicing” he has provided them.

      • upthecreek January 3, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

        One day the Sheeple will wake.
        And when they do.. it’s going to be Ugly.

  4. Charles James January 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    Our county CAO Kevin Carunchio may not be perfect in the minds of some, perhaps even many, but the fact is that he is hardworking, puts in many, many hours, and travels many miles on behalf of the residents of our county. Does anyone really think that he has anything but a 40++-hour-a-week job? He often works long days and he is often seen at community events and meetings held in the evening and on the weekend. That his can be a “thankless job” probably comes with the territory.

    But lets be honest. There is no CAO on this planet who could possibly keep everyone in our particular county happy. Just as with the rest of our country, there are plenty of malcontents who will never, ever be happy with the way things are done- even if they had almost everything done their way. It is just the way it is and the way people are.

    Carunchio is also constrained by the conservative politics of our county, which to many often appears more interested in keeping things just the way they are and have always been, rather than see real progress and substantive change. And then there is also the severe constraints on a county government which has very limited revenue while overseeing a very large geographic area, with land use restrictions imposed by the public agencies which control over 98% of the land.

    Someone once shared a joke with me about how some perceive our County government. It goes like this: Jesus is carrying his cross to Calvary when someone from Inyo County (remember, its only a joke) calls out to him, “Is there anything that we can do?” Christ’s reply was, “Tell the people of Inyo County to not do anything until I return!” And thus it has came to pass.

    Personally I have been at many meetings and events with Carunchio over the past few years. I have always found him to be courteous, professional, and with a good sense of humor- no doubt an important trait in his position. The other thing that has always struck me about him is that he truly cares about this county. He wants what is best for its residents. You cannot put a price on that.

    So I’ll end this by saying this: Carunchio is worth every dime he is paid, perhaps more. It is good to see that the Board of Supervisors acknowledged this fact with a pay increase and showed that they want to keep him on as our County CAO.

    • skier January 3, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

      I’m not saying he’s not a nice guy, but that’s not worth $200,000 for a small county like this.What does he actually do? Puts in many hours and travels many miles to do what? Is Administrator a state-mandated position? Gee, how much tax money could be saved by eliminating positions like that? They may be useful for large cities and counties, but not in a place with a population of 17,000.

  5. Ken Warner January 1, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    Mammoth city manager has that beat — $250.000 for 4 square miles. That’s $60,000 per square mile. Must be some kind of job creator or something….

    • upthecreek January 3, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

      @ Ken great point

      or $42 dollars from each person in Mammoth each year
      plus benefits of course.

      Government gone WILD

      • P&B January 4, 2012 at 7:29 am #

        And the benefit/contribution that he has currently made to the town…..wait….. what has he done for all that money?

  6. JJ December 31, 2011 at 6:57 am #

    Ya, ya, ya, but can he pitch?

    • JJ January 2, 2012 at 6:56 am #

      Why so negative?

  7. Inyoite December 30, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    He’s been making the same thing as the City Administrator of the City of Bishop. He probably deserves more for administering services in 10K square miles rather than 2 square miles.

    • upthecreek December 31, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

      Why not just double his pay.
      It’s only money. And it seems the gov. Has plenty

      happy new year


      • P&B January 1, 2012 at 9:42 am #

        Unless you’re dealing with the lowly worker, then there is no money even for cost of living increases. KC is nothing more than a “tool” for the politicians and the fact that they’re happy tells you that he is not putting the interests of the county first.

        The other clue on this were the “closed session” negotiations, all other county employees are part of the a publicly noticed MOU with fixed salaries. What others would reference as “belly aching” is actually noticing the ongoing, never changing, typical nature of administrators and politicians.

  8. Hobie December 30, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

    If he is doing an excellent job for Inyo County (and from what I have seen so far that has been the case), then quit your belly aching. If you pay 1/2 that amount for someone less competent, then it will cost more money and hurt the County in the long run. Trust your elected Inyo supervisors on this one and compare to the incompetence of the Mammoth Lakes Town Council (with the exception of Mr. Harvey). I for one could give a cr.. what anyone, let alone “up the creek” has to say about this if Mr. Carunchio is doing a good job. Get real and get a life folks.

    • Bobbie Lee Swagger December 31, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

      “Trust your elected…supervisors”


  9. Terribone December 30, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

    “I consider myself extremely blessed. I have a job I love in the place I love and work with good people. I am also well compensated.”

    What more could you ask for, Kevin. Unfortunately, someone likely lost their $8/hr county job to pay for your well-earned raise. C’est la vie.

  10. JeniferCastaneda December 29, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Benett are you saying $160,800 plus 1/3 more ($53,600) in benefits ?
    And a new assistant?

    • Benett Kessler December 30, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

      Yes. $160,800 plus 1/3 more for benefits. Currently Mr. Carunchio says he will
      fill one deputy vacancy after Chuck Hamilton retires.

  11. P&B December 29, 2011 at 9:38 am #

    Interesting how the board decided to negate the insurance and cost of living increases for the local workers…… With the current trend with administrators, the lackies of the politicians, it’s no wonder that the Inyo Board proceeded as they did. With decisions like this it’s no wonder that pension programs are in trouble. Of course that’s only the local workers pension fund and not the politicians or administrators retirements.

    People need to wake up and recognize this repeating pattern and make a change. This is why unions were formed to organize the little guy so we don’t go back to forced child labor…

  12. Bobbie Lee Swagger December 28, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    I don’t care who you are (except for maybe Buffet and Gates), $16,800 is a nice annual bump.

  13. JJ December 28, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

    Sounds like a baseball contract. Can he pitch?

  14. Big Rick O'Brien December 28, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

    Where are you, Up the Creek ?

    • UPTHECREEK December 30, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

      Like I have been saying for years It’s all about Protecting your own,
      Got to love it.

      Government Gone Wild

      pensions for everyone…


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