The sheriff and district attorney make the case that their senior staffs stand to earn less than their unionized subordinates

BY JEFF HORSEMAN
STAFF WRITER
jhorseman@pe.com

Published: 28 July 2012 06:04 PM

Raises for top-level prosecutors and senior sheriff’s department staff are needed so managers don’t earn less than the people they supervise, according to Sheriff Stan Sniff and District Attorney Paul Zellerbach.

They’re backing proposals before the county Board of Supervisors to raise non-union managers’ pay so there’s a wider salary gap between them and their subordinates. The board will consider the raises at their Tuesday, July 31, meeting, which starts at 9 a.m. in the board chambers at the County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon St. in Riverside.

The raises’ net cost to the county this fiscal year would be just under $779,000 and a budget increase would not be needed, according to a staff report. In nearly all cases, the raises would go to managers who make a minimum salary of six figures.

County Human Resources Director Barbara Olivier recommended the raises to the board in June after the county wrapped up contracts with its labor unions, which represent 92 percent of the county’s nearly 18,000 employees. Supervisors delayed taking action, saying they needed more time to consider the issue.

All the unions got raises in their contracts. As a result, the gap in pay between the highest-ranking deputy district attorney job — a unionized classification — and the supervising deputy district attorney — a non-union job — is just 0.71 percent, the county staff report read.

In the Sheriff’s Department, the total compensation for the non-union job of chief deputy sheriff is almost 16 percent below what a unionized sheriff’s captain earns, the report read. The correctional chief deputy post — not part of a union — earns about 17 percent less than the unionized job of correctional captain, the report added.

Zellerbach said neither he nor Sniff was involved in union negotiations.

‘EQUITY AND FAIRNESS’

“All I’m looking for is for equity and fairness,” said Zellerbach, who plans to address supervisors Tuesday. “It seems to me if the board has agreed to give raises and other benefits to my trial attorneys — which is wonderful — that they should also agree to give those benefits to the managers who have been here many years longer (than lower-level attorneys) and have proven their dedication to Riverside County.”

Senior-level DA staff work on an “at-will” basis and can be fired without the protections afforded union members, Zellerbach said.

“What is going to encourage or entice people to move into those management positions, first of all if they’re at-will and second, if they’re making less than people they supervise?” he said, adding that not giving the managers raises gives them an incentive to unionize.

Sniff makes a similar argument. “It becomes an absurdity to have senior-level people making less money than the people they manage,” he told the board in June. “It undermines my ability to run the organization.”

NO DA, SHERIFF RAISES

When brought forward in June, the raises were accompanied by a separate proposal to boost the salaries of Sniff, Zellerbach and other elected leaders who aren’t supervisors.

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