Recently, the Board of Supervisors laudably eliminated a loophole allowing for elected Supervisors to receive compensation for serving on the Board of Retirement and Assessment Appeals Board.
However, the Supervisors continue to benefit from a highly unusual and lucrative “supplemental pay” that applies only to them, in clear violation of the intent of Ordinance #4253.
In years past the Supervisors awarded themselves benefits and bonuses never approved by the voters. When the abuse and greed became known outside of the County Government Center a Citizen’s Blue Ribbon Committee was formed to determine how Supervisors should be compensated.
In 2001 the Ventura County Board of Supervisors adopted Ordinance #4253 to set Supervisor’s base salary at a level equal to 70% of the salary of a Superior Court Judge with a five percent annual cap on increases, and to provide those benefits “common in private industry or government, which are: health insurance, life insurance, retirement, deferred compensation plans, 401(k) plans, car allowance and medical examination”.
Furthermore, the ordinance stated “it is the intent of the Board that the salary and benefits so provided is the entire compensation for Supervisors’ services….”
But that changed.
In 2013 the Governor enacted the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act (PEPRA) that made several changes to pension benefits offered to employees. One of the provisions that was best received by the public was the requirement that government employees including elected officials would pay part of the cost of their retirement.
Then in 2014 Supervisors found a way to circumvent PEPRA cost-sharing provisions, the Blue Ribbon Committee and erode public trust by creating a new “supplemental pay” to increase Supervisors pay, exactly offsetting any required contribution toward their own pensions.
Asked for comment, the Assistant County Executive Officer stated “the supplement was added to the Ordinance to prevent a pay reduction” for Supervisors.
The relevant new language contained in Section 4(D) of the Ordinance provides that “Supervisors shall receive supplemental pay equivalent to the percentage value of the pick-up eliminated effective July 20, 2014 and the percentage value of participating in the 50/50 cost sharing of the normal cost of retirement … based upon Tier I or Tier II status.”
This is exactly what circumventing PEPRA pension reform looks like – elected Supervisors getting together and voting to reimburse themselves dollar for dollar for pension contributions deducted from their paycheck and thus pay nothing towards the cost of their pensions.
The remaining Supervisors covered by this loophole are Bennett, Parks and Zaragoza. On average they receive about $200,000 in pay and benefits – double the median pay and benefits for all year-round county employees who contribute towards their pension.
The three Supervisors can afford to contribute towards their pensions so why don’t they?
More than 8,000 employees work for the County and yet as far as we have been able to determine, only Supervisors Bennett, Parks and Zaragoza receive “supplemental pay” to reimburse themselves for pension contributions.
Ventura County Taxpayers Association urges the Board of Supervisors to fully comply with Ordinance #4253 stated purpose that reads: “it is the intent of the Board that the salary and benefits so provided is the entire compensation for Supervisors’ services…” and immediately eliminate the “supplemental pay” loophole designed exclusively for the benefit of three highly paid elected Supervisors.
With the recent announcement of 79 full-time employees being laid off at Ventura County’s public medical system, VCTA believes it is also time for all County Supervisors to contribute towards their own pension, much like every other county employee.
The Ventura County Taxpayer Association is made up of people who recognize the importance of government to our communities. Government should be efficient, effective and always transparent. If you would like to support our efforts, please click here to go to our website and join us . Thank you.