Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/24/2012 12:28:10 PM PDT

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a ballot measure for the November general election that, if approved, would keep their salaries and benefits in line with counties of similar size and population.

That measure is in direct response to a competing ballot measure by the county’s two largest labor unions, the San Bernardino County Safety Employees Benefit Association and the San Bernardino Public Employees Association, which proposes to reduce supervisors’ pay and benefits to $60,000.

Now, the two ballot measures will face off in the Nov. 6 general election. The one that gets the highest amount of votes wins, county Registrar Mike Scarpello said.

The supervisors’ ordinance would ensure that their annual salary and benefits are in line with the average salaries and benefits of their counterparts in Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties.

If the union ballot measure prevails in November, the adjustments to supervisor pay and benefits wouldn’t be imposed until Dec. 1, 2013. That’s because the law precludes lowering an elected official’s compensation during their term in office or during an election year when other candidates are vying for their seat, county spokesman David Wert said.

In January, SEBA President Laren Leichliter announced his union was taking over a petition drive to cut supervisors’ pay. The effort was initially launched by Wrightwood resident Kieran Brennan, but SEBA and the SBPEA took the reins after prolonged labor negotiations with the county soured and the Board of Supervisors approved a ballot measure requiring any pension increases for county employees be approved by voters.

In March, the unions collected 73,672 petition signatures, 30,152 more than the 43,520 needed to qualify the measure for the ballot.

The supervisor pay-cut initiative became the subject of a Grand Jury probe this year, which county CEO Greg Devereaux noted in a staff report prepared for the board Tuesday.

In its annual report released June 30, the Grand Jury determined that San Bernardino County supervisors’ salaries were comparable to their counterparts in Orange, Riverside and Ventura counties. The Grand Jury also determined that if the union measure passes, the pay and benefits of supervisors, whose districts average roughly 400,000 residents each, would be on par with supervisors in counties with populations between 20,000 and 177,000 residents.

Reached by telephone Tuesday, Leichliter said he was baffled by the Grand Jury inquiry.

“I didn’t quite understand why the GJ was looking into it. I’ve never seen them look into any of the other ballot measures before,” Leichliter said. “I’m questioning why they took a look at this one.”

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