March 2011 - Sierra Scoop Column

Mono County is finally seeing (feeling) that they must do something to rein in costs, mainly wages!  So this month I will be discussing the topic of At-Will employees (Exempt & management) and the regular public employees as this is currently the hot topic.

At-will employees are typically in a management or department head position, even though there are others. These employees each have their own contracts and what they do have in common are the high dollar salaries including benefits (i.e. perks) as outlined in the At-Will Employees Compensation Policy.

From information in public records, these salaries range from ~$80,000 - $175,000+ per year, not including benefits. And for some this includes “Performance Pay” upwards to 5% of base salary. Per the Policy they are guaranteed yearly pay increases (minimum of 2%), paid “Administration leave” and car allowances upwards to $10,000/year. These contracts are written to protect the employee and do not allow the County any power to reduce or freeze pay during their contract period. Does anyone really read and understand these contracts? Why would this ever be allowed?

Currently the County is conducting “behind closed door negotiations” with unions and associations. The County side is usually made up of the CAO, Finance Director, County Counsel and some Supervisors. Now this is usually the case even when the “other side” is management (conflict of interest?). When can the public comment and have its comments taken seriously?

The talk going around just about anywhere these days is that the County is demanding that the public employees give up a lot. Such as: a 10% pay cut, furlough days, no step increases, no cost of living adjustments and the County is only willing to do a one year contract.

What seems quite interesting and maybe “not quite fair” is that the “rank and file” are being demanded to give up quite a bit while management is not. Recent contracts even show pay increases!

Now if the County was serious about cutting expenses, why are they looking only at the lower ranks? Why is someone making upwards to $175,000 able to drive a County car to and from home, or given a car allowance?

Want to save money? Remove car allowances, save $140,000+; remove “Administrative leave”, save $100,000+; reduce At-Will salary by 10%, save $250,000+. These are savings EACH YEAR!

So the final question is, “When is fair, Fair?”

To view contracts, policy and more, visit

Note: This column is written in early February in order to make publishing deadlines. Final negotiated figures may differ from those quoted here.

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