Letter to the editor: Salaries out of touch?


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


18 Responses to Letter to the editor: Salaries out of touch?

  1. mammothgal March 25, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    Thank you Supervisor Johnston for saying what needed to be said. As Mono County taxpayers we should reexamine all our expenses and assumptions in our still fragile economy. None of us in the private sector have nearly the benefits that have been reported here. The car allowance in particular is out of control; reimburse for mileage for a specific business trip or use a county pool car (are these cars just sitting idle?) but don’t give people nearly $800 a month!

  2. Jerry Spindler March 25, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    This has been long in coming. I’ve heard similar dialog from Tim Fesco (candidate for Supervisor, District 4). Common sense and logic seems to be trumped by something else. I would’nt accuse anyone of making their decisions based on the “good old boys society” premise or simply taking the easy way out. But, one has to ask the obvious questions. Are these exhorbitant compensations necessary to attract qualified applicants and then necessary to keep those hired? I for one think not, even though it’s been a projected reason by some for a long time. Supervisor Johnston was right on, pointing out that the compensation packages were a one way street. If it is a negotiation between the employee and the County it should be a give and take within the Counties predetermined range as a limitation. In this economic climate, how can increases be justified? How can reality be suspended when these contracts are approved? There are very good employee’s in management and there is the other side of that coin, but this should be about common sense and logic, not the easy way out or friendship. Thanks, Larry.

  3. P&B March 26, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    Interesting that board member Johnston is beafing about something he eagerly participated in when he was the Assistant Community Development Director for Mono County. In fact he would ride along with others to meetings so he wouldn’t use his car or burn his own gas – what a hypocritical diatribe……

  4. Home girl March 26, 2012 at 7:56 am #

    KUDOS to Supervisor Johnston. It is never easy to stand alone. It takes pure bravery to stand for what is right. I admire your backbone, I admire that you are not a YES man. CLAP, CLAP, CLAP, CLAP.

  5. Kostecki, D March 26, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    What was not mentioned in the supervisor’s brazen letters to the editor was the fact that this supervisor for some number of years enjoyed the very same “out-of-touch salary” and “auto perks” (that I understand he still maintains but has not refused or returned). What was also not mentioned is his current $50K salary per year plus car allowance (all for part-time work) that he enjoys today. It seems to me that until at least a portion of his previous “out-of-touch” salary and previous “auto perks” monies (that he knowingly accepted and demonizes today) are returned to the taxpayer as a part of his “out-of-touch” salary restructuring program, he might as well examine the definition of the word “hypocrite” before any more tilting at windmills is to be taken seriously.

    • Bill March 26, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

      Yep! Pot calling the kettle black, that Larry Johnston. He now double dips w/ a high paying Supervisor Salary and benefits on top of his County retirement.

      And before any more tea baggers scream support of his tirade you should learn a little about what County Dept Heads actually do for the County. Many are experienced and dedicated employees who have tremendous skills at running departments. Our good managers save the County money while also limiting liability by insuring we follow CA laws and procedures. They manage employees who provide important vital services to our community and hundreds of thousands of annual guests.

      County employees are an easy target and it’s an easy argument against them when
      You are emotional and not realistic about how the county is managed and operates. In fact, thanks to the many hard working Town and County employees. Some of us value your service.

      • Larry Johnston March 28, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

        Mr. Kostecki, et.al.,
        An employee of an organization versus an organization leader are two different roles. Since I took office in January, 2011, I have voluntarily refused 25% of the car allowance, have never requested County reibursement for out-of-county travel or per diem (note: current policy allows 55 cents per mile reimbursement for out-of-county travel on top of car allowance; most other Supervisors and at-will employees claim reimbursments). The voluntary “right to refuse” took three months to achieve as apparently no one before had refused such compensation and it was not clear what should be done. The Board eventually adopted a policy to allow voluntary refusal of compensation, which was passed on a 4-1 vote, Hazard dissenting (see Board Minutes March 15, 2011, Item 7a).
        I think it is important to lead by example.

        • Dennis Kostecki March 28, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

          Mr. Johnston,

          I would respectfully say that perhaps a better way to “lead by example” (if I understand your agenda correctly) would be to refuse the remaining 75% of the car allowance you abhor and are lobbying so aggressively against, plus at least a 10% reimbursement to the taxpayer of your previous salary you enjoyed as a county employee, and at least a 10% reduction of your current part-time $50K salary.

          This, I believe would add credence and much to the importance of leading by example and be solid proof to your constituents that everyone is making too much money as you are so strongly suggesting.

        • NewEra March 29, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

          Yeah Sure lead by example after the fact, I like the precedent you set, but clearly is not enough!!

  6. allen berrey March 26, 2012 at 10:38 am #

    Larry: Nice try; but it’s hard to get pigs at a trough to stop eating. Why don’t you see if your comrades will at least repeal the Mono County resolution by which the public pays for County Counsel Marshall Rudolph’s Rotary Club dues? Thanks.

  7. Dennis Kostecki March 28, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    Mr. Johnston,

    At the risk of appearing redundant, with over 20 years as a former employee and then manager of an international corporation, I must take serious issue with: “An employee of an organization versus an organization leader are two different roles” I must state Mr. Johnston, managers ARE organizational leaders. What it appears you are doing is nothing more than a political ploy (perhaps based upon some sort of bitter vendetta) to demonize managers to the public and union employees. Not only is this tactic demoralizing, it also underminds teamwork, the overall health of the organization, and is most definitely not anywhere close to resembling a spirit of harmonious interest and therefore blatantly and obviously self-serving.
    The general feeling today is one of disgust in the political polarization efforts of far too many public servants.

  8. Anonymous March 28, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    Mr. Berrey,
    Sounds like your comments against County Counsel Marshall Rudolph are more sour grapes than anything else.

    • 2rude March 29, 2012 at 7:21 am #

      No; I just don’t think the taxpayers should pay for the private club dues of a county official who makes more than $150,000+ per year, especially when that perk is not provided for non-management employees. Do you think that is OK? If so, why, Mr./Mrs. Anonymous? Thanks.

      P.S. Not sour grapes; I left because I was tired of seeing Marshall Rudolph, Stacey Simon, Dave Wilbrecht, and Mark Magit continually break, or condone the breaking of, the law. For instance, Ms. Simon and Mr. Rudolph allowed the Board of Supervisors to award a $180,000K well-drilling contract without going out to bid, in clear violation of the Public Contract Code; when I objected, I was essentially told to keep quiet. Are you OK with that, Mr./Mrs. Anonymous?

      • Rob March 29, 2012 at 11:22 am #

        “$180,000K well-drilling contract without going out to bid”

        That should be a matter of public record now. Benett?

      • Inyoite March 29, 2012 at 11:26 am #

        I think you just outed your sock-puppet, Mr. Berrey.

        • allen berrey March 29, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

          C’est la vie. I felt a little cowardly using it anyway. Thanks.

  9. Rob March 29, 2012 at 6:53 am #

    Local government jobs are the best jobs in Inyo & Mono Counties. Then if you’re lucky enough to be put in a position of double dipping you’re really living high on the hog.

    It’s all complete BS

  10. NewEra March 29, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    Can’t play fat cat anymore! We demand production!!


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