San Bernardino County supervisors have too much to do, the chairwoman says after a union backs the idea

BY IMRAN GHORI
STAFF WRITER
ighori@pe.com

Published: 26 January 2012 09:27 PM

A proposal to reduce San Bernardino County supervisors’ positions to part-time status would leave little time for them to meet and respond to constituents’ needs, board Chairwoman Josie Gonzales said Thursday.

“They would probably never see us because the obligations that are mandated of us would take priority,” she said.

Earlier this week, the San Bernardino County Safety Employees’ Benefit Association, SEBA, announced it is backing the proposed ballot measure to make supervisors’ part time and cutting their pay, benefits and staff.

The announcement came only hours after the board voted to draft a ballot measure requiring voter approval before retirement benefits for county employees, legislative officers and elected officials could be increased.

SEBA, which represents about 3,100 public safety employees, and the San Bernardino Public Employees Association, representing about 11,000 general employees, both spoke against that proposal.

SEBA promised to provide funding and support to gather enough signatures to place the part-time proposal before voters. Union officials have accused supervisors of delegating too many of their duties to county Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux and were already meeting less often.

“In these austere times, part-time work should result in part-time pay,” SEBA President Laren Leichliter said.

HUGE PAY DIFFERENCE

The ballot measure does not specify the amount of hours that supervisors could work but cuts their pay from $151,971 a year to $60,000 a year. It also reduces their combined budget for staff and office expenses from $6 million to $250,000 a year.

The measure was first proposed by a group calling itself Committee to Reform San Bernardino County Government in September. But the backing of SEBA, one of the most influential players in county politics, instantly raised the profile of the proposal.

Leichliter conceded the timing of SEBA’s announcement made it appear as if the union’s backing was in response to the pension measure but said it had been in discussions with the original proponents since October.

A poll conducted by SEBA found 73 percent support among voters, he said. The original proponents have already collected 12,000 signatures, Leichliter said.

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