The 5% solution

By From page A4 | December 12, 2012

Five percent seems to be the magic number with government bigwigs these days. The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors handed out 5 percent raises to two top bureaucrats last Tuesday. Monday the El Dorado Irrigation District board gave its general manager a 5 percent raise to be followed by a 1 percent raise when the new year rolls around.

Pretty sweet.

EID directors gave their counsel a 3.8 percent step increase, his first raise in five years.

Granted the EID GM had cut his compensation $13,000 by reducing a portion of his health benefits. Still we have to sympathize with Director Alan Day’s contention that the timing is off when viewed through the prism of double-digit rate increases.

All directors, including Day, concur that the GM has done an outstanding job. We would give him an A also. That’s what they pay him the big bucks for. In view of Gross Domestic Product that is growing at only a 2 percent annual rate, it would have been a wiser move to grant the GM a raise in the 3 percent range, similar to what the counsel requested.

The board has to realize these raises are going to put pressure on them when considering raises for other top managers at the district.

And that is one of the problems with the 5 percent raises the CAO handed out to the assistant CAO and the director of Health and Human Services. These raises were not announced in the agenda, they were attached to a complex reorganization plan.

By contrast, at EID the general manager in public detailed district accomplishments and goals, then the board conducted a performance review in closed session separately with the GM and the district counsel. Afterward the board came out of closed session and then voted in public after making various comments pro and con about the raises. It was all above board. We just think 5 percent was a little over the top.

The CAO, by contrast buried the raises in a mountain of reorganization paperwork for the new community development agency that the assistant CAO is supervising temporarily. For pinch-hitting the county hands out 5 percent raises? This is county government, not Major League Baseball.

The really problematic raise is the 5 percent gift to the HHS director. That had nothing to do with the reorganization of the Department of Transportation, Community Development Department and Environmental Management into one super agency. We disagree with the retiring county counsel. This is a violation of the Brown Act, the California open meeting law. It is pure lawyer jive talk to claim the raises didn’t need to be mentioned because the Brown Act says an agenda item shall not exceed 20 words. The next paragraph after the discussion of the 20-word limit says, “No action or discussion shall be undertaken on any item not appearing on the posted agenda…”

Handing out raises to the assistant CAO and the HHS director did not appear on any posted agenda. At the very least, it’s time for a do-over and a more thorough justification for these two 5 percent raises. Post them clearly on the agenda and let the public comment. That’s the right 5 percent solution.

Mountain Democrat

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