The Sentinel

By Mark Gutglueck
Posted on December 27, 2014

(December 22) — San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon was the highest-paid county elected official in California in 2013, according to state controller John Chiang. During his first full year in office as sheriff, McMahon received a total compensation package of well over half of a million dollars.

According to Chiang, McMahon received $363,986 in total wages in 2013, which included $225,499 in regular pay, a $121,579 lump-sum for cashed-out leave time following his appointment in December 2012, and another $16,908, described as “other pay,” which covered his car allowance and cell phone usage. In addition to his salary, McMahon was provided with another $170,780 in retirement and health benefits, which included a $114,812 defined benefit plan, a $11,215 retirement contribution, $31,804 in deferred compensation and $12,949 provided for health/dental/vision coverage.

McMahon’s total compensation surpassed that of then-Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, the state’s second-highest paid elected county official in 2013, with $347,786 in total wages and more than $140,000 in benefits that pushed his total compensation package to roughly $490,000.

The controlling factor that rocketed McMahon to the top of the field among the state’s elected county officials was the $121,579 lump sum for cashed-out leave time he received. The lump sum was for vacation, holiday and sick time he had accumulated before he assumed the sheriff’s position. As an elected official, a sheriff is not permitted to maintain leave balances.

McMahon fared particularly well in 2013 in that San Bernardino County ranks as 23rd out of the state’s 58 counties in terms of pay and benefits provided to employees. San Bernardino County, which employs 21,985, paid them an average of $48,997 in total wages in 2013 and provided them with another $20,321 in retirement and health benefits on average. The state average on per employee pay was $58,521 and $22,546 in benefits.

District Attorney Mike Ramos was the fifth highest-paid district attorney in the state, bringing down $259,451 in total wages, which does not include benefits.

That was par for the course, as San Bernardino County is the fifth largest county in the state. Four of San Bernardino County’s supervisors, none of whom was identified by name, received salaries that ranged from $168,000 to $173,000, which was more than all other supervisors in California except their counterparts in Los Angeles. A fifth San Bernardino County supervisor earned about $163,000.

McMahon was appointed to the sheriff’s position in late 2012 and, running as an unelected incumbent for sheriff this year, was elected to a four-year term in his own right. While the inflated salary and benefits he received in 2013 was shocking to some, there were many other public employees in California who were paid more. McMahon was the highest paid elected county official, but nine unelected county officials throughout the state earned more. And some state of California employees were extremely well paid.

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