Submitted by Mono Supervisor Larry Johnston

This past Tuesday, the Mono County Board of Supervisors approved renewal of seven management employee contracts costing $1,372,220 (average $196,031 each).  The lowest cost contract is $158,193, the highest is $241,667.  The salary portion of these contracts is $809,868 (average $115,695 or $9,641/mo.).  The benefits/retirement cost is $562,352 (average $80,336 each).  Two of these seven contracts received raises, five had no increase.

The Board vote was 4 to 1 with me being the dissenting vote.  The principal reason for my dissent is the same as it has been for the last year regarding management contracts when they have come before the Board, and that is, the contracts are out of touch with the reality of the economy.  As an example, the non-salary portion of the contract ($80,336) is by itself higher than Mono County’s Area Median Income ($74,500 for a family of four).

While it is important in recruiting and maintaining good employees (and we do have good employees at all levels in the organization), the pendulum of exponentially increasing salaries and benefits has swung too far.  For example, in the January 2012 management salary survey (which surveyed 23 other counties), salaries have decreased 5% overall, employees have been laid off, and/or positions have been consolidated in these surveyed counties.

For the seven contracts (and the previous management contracts that have come up periodically during the last year), I have attempted to tackle the “swinging pendulum” with suggested contract amendments that would both protect the employee from potentially draconian salary decreases while bringing benefits into rational alignment with limited resources and public sentiment.  These amendments are:

“Salary shall be increased or decreased in accordance with the management compensation policy; any decrease shall not be more than 2% yearly.”
(Presently, contracts only allow increases in pay; a one-way street.  The 2% cap helps protect the employee from draconian decreases.  Note no decrease is actually proposed.)
“The 5% ‘merit pay’ shall be phased out in 12 equal reductions over 12 months.”
(‘Merit pay’ is over and above the normal salary.  While union employees have agreed to no step increases in their contracts to help see us through bad economic times, 5% “merit pay” continues for about 70% of management staff.)
“The management car allowance (currently $781/month, raised recently from $704/mo) shall be phased out in 12 equal reductions over 12 months.  Like other employees, an un-assigned pool car shall be used to conduct county business.  If a car has been assigned to an employee, such usage shall cease and an un-assigned pool car shall be used to conduct county business (public safety exempted).”
(Car allowance is unnecessary to conduct business since pool cars are available. Present contract wording also allows for personal commuting, and even out-of-county commuting, in assigned vehicles.  Additionally, there is an automatic adjustment in the car allowance, usually upward, based on the cost of gas, etc.  While most regular employees get to work at their own cost, management’s commuting is completely paid ad infinitum by taxpayers.)

Unfortunately, these amendments were not voted to be included in these contracts and so the exponentially increasing pendulum continues to swing. There are other concerns related to these contracts (such as why several contracts were pushed up many months from their normal due date, even before budget consideration in August) which I addressed at the Board meeting.

I remain committed to frugal and efficient government and will continue the effort to help advance public service as a well-respected endeavor.

Larry Johnston
Supervisor, District 1

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