San Bernardino County supervisors Brad Mitzelfelt, First District; Janice Rutherford, Second District; Neil Derry, Third District; Gary Ovitt, Fourth District; and Josie Gonzales, Fifth District (File photos)

Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/25/2012 04:21:42 PM PST

A proposed initiative to make county supervisors’ jobs part-time would spell doom for residents desiring a stronger presence of government in their communities, San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Josie Gonzales said Wednesday.

“In my opinion, the representation would be extremely limited, and in the unincorporated areas I would venture to say next to none,” Gonzales said.

Laren Leichliter, the president of the San Bernardino County Safety Employees Benefit Association, or SEBA, announced the initiative Tuesday after supervisors directed county counsel to prepare a ballot measure proposing that any benefit increases for county employees proposed by county supervisors be put to a vote of the citizens.

He said the board has slashed its meeting times in half over the past two years, has delegated much of its constitutional duties to Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux and that land-use responsibilities are shrinking with annexations and incorporations.

SEBA is backing initiatives that make up the San Bernardino County Elected Officials Pay Reduction Act, filed with the Registrar of Voters in August by 84-year-old Wrightwood resident Kieran Brennan. The three initiatives propose reducing county supervisors’ job status to part-time, limiting campaign contributions to elected officials to no more than $1,000, and placing limits on county employee pension benefits.

Under the initiative calling for part-time county supervisors, each supervisor’s staff budgets would be cut from $1.5 million to $250,000 annually.

Gonzales said supervisors would not be able to run their offices on a budget of $250,000 a year, even if they worked for free.

In a similar initiative brought last year in Riverside County, a Superior Court judge sided with Riverside County Counsel Pamela Walls, who argued the initiative was in violation of the state Constitution, which mandates that such proposals be put to a referendum, not an initiative.

Former Norco Councilman Herb Higgins withdrew his petition to circulate the initiative in March, said Riverside County spokesman Ray Smith.

San Bernardino County spokesman David Wert said in an email Wednesday that county counsel had no intention of going in the same direction as Riverside County.

“If the county were to make such a challenge, it would not consider doing so until after an initiative passes,” Wert said.

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