Reforming San Diego County Supervisors’ Compensation

Brian Brady Brian Brady 4 Comments


Four of the five County Supervisors voted to increase their base pay (and pensions) this week.  Defeated Democrat Dave Roberts voted against the proposal while the four Republicans voted for it.  Board Chairman Ron Roberts (who will retire in two years) justified his proposal with this statement:

“It has been nearly 20 years since we adjusted the formula for members of the Board of Supervisors and salaries have risen less than 1 percent annually over the last nine years,” he said. “San Diego County has the second largest population in the state and in terms of square miles is one of the nation’s largest counties, larger in size than two states. I am very comfortable this adjustment is fair and justified.”

That’s not an unreasonable statement but what Roberts (and the Republicans on the Board) are refusing to address is the perverse incentives their compensation package has.  The Supervisors’ compensation is tied to Superior Court judges’ compensation which is tied to an index of unionized state workers’ compensation.  The Board of Supervisors then has a financial incentive, during negotiations with public sector unions, to increase the unionized workers’ compensation.  The local SEIU leader knows this too:

The vote drew criticism from Service Employees International Union Local 221, a group that represents more than 10,000 county workers, including librarians, social workers, nurses, and others. Chapter President Tracey Carter said she hopes supervisors keep any of their own raises in mind when her union goes into contract negotiations.

Should the County Supervisors make more money?  Maybe.  They have a big job which affects the lives of as many constituents as a member of the US House of Representatives.  In many respects, their decisions are more important to their constituents than a House member’s would be so it’s expected they will be compensated at the same level.  Roberts proposal however, ignores the conflict of interest and, whether that conflict of interest is real or imagined, Caesar’s wife should be beyond reproach.


Comments 4

  1. Lining your own pockets with taxpayer money maybe the only truly bipartisan action still taken by our elected officials.

  2. Post
  3. Well said, Brian.

    Politicians voting themselves a pay raise is always unpopular. Sometimes that raise is deserved, and I’m sure it’s difficult to burn political capital to affect a change that makes sense. But putting future raises on cruise control based on a confusing cascade of indexes is too clever by half.

    There is a reason and purpose for the scrutiny applied to raises for elected officials.

    There should be a price to pay for gaming the system to avoid public scrutiny.

    This isn’t a partisan issue.

  4. Encinitas Dad,

    I don’t think the issue is the pay raise per se although I could make an argument that our County Supervisors were already well paid. The problem is that the raise will result in a pension spike for four elected officials who are nearing retirement age (the money to pay for the spike was never invested) and know that they will never have to answer to the voters for their action.

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