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Regarding your Jan. 1 “Goofy gavel” editorial I am not sure where to start. What comes to mind is my dad’s fond paraphrase of an Abraham Lincoln quote: “If you cannot beat a man with logic, you can always resort to calling him names.”
I thought the Mountain Democrat stood for democracy and for the taxpayer. Instead of a sneering reference to a yearlong open dialogue about salaries for elected department heads that culminated into a November 2013 action by the Board of Supervisors who voted affirmatively, adamantly, to reset elected department office holders from a runaway system of enhanced and special pay which had an infinite compounding scheme, to a simple no-gimmicks pay schedule using the average median pay from eight of our neighboring counties.
Your editorial should’ve thanked the board for their decisive action which, in fact, will save the taxpayers of El Dorado County hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, in current and future pay and retirement for a handful of department heads who happen to be elected.
In an effort to educate the readers to what was going on let’s take the Treasurer-Tax Collectors position in example. The “list price” or base pay was $135,000. On the surface this is fair pay when compared to similar size departments within El Dorado and amongst our neighbors. But, over the last couple of decades past boards decided to add extra pay differentials or “add-ons.” By the time the Treasurer-Tax Collector got out the door she was, in fact, being paid W- 2 wage of $179,000 annually. Our staff had been pouring through all past board ordinances and through personnel resolutions where all the “add-ons” were surreptitiously woven into paychecks during the past 20 years. It has taken months for staff to put all the pieces together, just imagine if a member of the public were to seek the same information and how frustrated they may be.
As far as I am concerned, there is no blame to place on any single person or prior boards. The fact is the system was rotten. We were a poster child for how taxpayers are being stuck with six-figure retirements that are breaking the fiscal backs of government. The County of El Dorado was right to take a leadership position and do something about it fairly.
With regard to your astoundingly absurd observation that members of the public need to be refuted by staff when they present their thoughts to the board. Really!?
Back in August of 2013 the authors of Measure Y and a majority of localized citizen groups having banded to create “Rural Communities United” (RCU) asked for time to speak and present their view of our county General Plan, the Traffic Demand Model and in general about future growth. On their behalf I sponsored a two-hour presentation to the board followed by two agenda items of staff discussion of the points made by RCU. This was not a good combination, as staff, and public became polarized in defense of their respective view.
With experience now held, I agreed with leaders of RCU who asked for a second unfettered presentation in December which your editorial takes exception to. It is incumbent upon supervisors to listen to all sides, gain staff input then deliberate. For your paper to suggest anything less is being done by our Board of Supervisors is wrong and misleading.
The citizens-taxpayers of El Dorado are best served when its government is open-minded to all. I have worked the past seven years to repair some deep land-use growth wounds which were gouged into our daily lives in part by editorials like yours of Jan. 1. So, yes, RCU presented a second time in December and if they want a third time, I would sponsor that request as well. The more we understand one another’s position the better government can be.
In closing, I believe that fair and reasonable compensation for government employees extend to elected officials. And that taxpayers and citizens have a right of unfettered access to their representatives.
Finally, I consider Bill Center a friend, and I reject the Mountain Democrat suggestion that his or any other person or groups voice be selectively censored or deliberately refuted as suggested by your editorial.
RON BRIGGS, District 4 Supervisor
Chairman, County of El Dorado Board of Supervisors