James Rufus Koren and Joe Nelson, Staff Writers
Created: 04/28/2011 09:50:02 PM PDT

All of San Bernardino County’s elected officials, except for District Attorney Michael A. Ramos and Sheriff Rod Hoops, have agreed to the same benefit cuts being asked of all county employees.

The county Board of Supervisors has asked all county workers to take smaller raises and pay more toward their pension plans, a move that would save the county $30 million annually.

Board Chairwoman Josie Gonzales, who has accepted the changes to her pay, said it’s important for elected officials to participate as well.

“Actions speak louder than words,” she said. “We must be able to, through our actions, show the taxpayer that we’re all in this economic pain together.”

Hoops said he is considering accepting the changes.

County spokesman David Wert said Ramos has not signed a waiver accepting the changes. Ramos issued a statement saying he is “very appreciative of what I receive as compensation for the constitutional duties I perform for the safety of our citizens.”

On April 5, the board approved concessions for the county’s 537 exempt employees – including county administrators and supervisors’ staff members. The concessions included cutting annual raises from 5 percent to 2.5 percent, changing a health care benefit so that it won’t count toward employee pensions and ending the county’s practice of paying for most of an employee’s pension contribution – a move that amounts to a 7 percent pay cut.

The board is asking for similar concessions from all county employees and is in the process of bargaining with public employee unions. County firefighters accepted the concessions on April 14.

The concessions, for firefighters and exempt employees, include a so-called “me-too” clause, meaning that those employees won’t have to go through with the concessions if other employee groups don’t sign on.

The only people on the county payroll who aren’t subject to the “me-too” clause and who weren’t asked to take the concessions were elected officials.

Nevertheless, each county supervisor, Assessor Dennis Draeger and Treasurer-Tax Collector Larry Walker have agreed to the same concessions.

“They’re all keenly aware of the fact concessions were imposed on the exempt group and that the firefighters accepted similar concessions,” Wert said. “Being aware of that, (elected officials) decided on their own whether or not to do it.”

Draeger, Walker and the supervisors, with the exception of supervisors Neil Derry and Brad Mitzelfelt, have agreed to waive for one year the county’s payment of their pension contributions.

Derry agreed to pay the full amount into his retirement benefits from June 18 through July 15, and Mitzelfelt only agreed to the concessions for 13 days, from June 18 to July 1. Both said they would continue to take the concessions but did not want to lock themselves into lengthy agreements if negotiations with county employees fizzled.

Draeger said accepting the concessions himself was “the fair and equitable thing to do.”

Hoops has not agreed to the concessions, though Sheriff’s Department spokesman Lt. Rod Torres said Hoops is considering it.

He said Hoops is holding off signing any benefit waiver until he sees how the unions respond to the county’s request. Hoops doesn’t want to lock himself into an irrevocable agreement should negotiations fail, Torres said.

In addition, Hoops wants to review a clause that allows employees with 30 or more years of county service to opt out of the concessions for one year, Torres said.

Ramos released a statement Wednesday saying, “The salary structure for elected officials in San Bernardino County is different than that for all other county employees.

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