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Contra Costa County Board Of Supervisors Vote Themselves $32,000 Raise Despite Vocal Opposition

MARTINEZ (CBS SF) -- Despite vocal opposition from numerous county employees' unions, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday afternoon to give themselves a $32,000 raise.

The board voted 4-1 to pass an ordinance that will boost their pay by about 33 percent and bring their annual salaries from $97,483 to $129,227, with Supervisor Candace Andersen casting the only no vote.

Under the ordinance, each supervisor's salary will equate to 70 percent of a Contra Costa County Superior Court judge's pay - following the six other Bay Area counties that also link supervisors' pay to judicial salaries.

The supervisors who voted for the raise said that while choosing to increase their own salaries is always controversial, the pay hike and linkage to judicial salaries is needed after many years of avoiding the issue and will prevent them from having to set their own salaries in the future.

"It's unfortunate that we have been in a position where we are in control of our own salaries," Supervisor Federal Glover said before voting on the ordinance at today's board meeting.

"I don't like this, it's uncomfortable. But it's necessary," he said, noting that during his 15 years on the board, county leaders have "kicked the can down the road" and avoided the issue.

The board last voted to give itself a raise in 2006, bumping its salary up by 60 percent.

Glover, along with supervisors John Gioia, Karen Mitchoff and Mary Piepho, rejected a motion by Andersen to gradually phase in a raise by increasing their salary by 3 to 4 percent each year.

Echoing her sentiments during last week's meeting, which resulted in another 4-1 vote to move forward with the salary increases, Andersen said today that the proposed 33 percent increase is too high.

"I'm not suggesting we should never have a raise, but I think 30 percent is too much to do at once, a raise of this magnitude is not acceptable to the public and certainly not to our public employees," Andersen said.

The supervisor's comments garnered applause and cheers from an audience consisting largely of unionized public employees who said they have taken pay cuts and forgone raises for years.

The board heard from more than a dozen speakers this afternoon who voiced their opposition to the proposed raise.

Many county workers' union representatives said that like the board of supervisors, their employees have faced pay cuts in recent years, but have also undergone hiring freezes, furloughs and slashed benefits.

"You guys work very hard, we know that," Margaret Hanlon-Gradie, executive director of the Central Labor Council of Contra Costa County, AFL-CIO, told the board. "But many county workers only recently received a 4 percent raise after 10 months of bargaining and four years of sacrifice."

Ken Westerman, president of the county's Deputy Sheriff's Association, said at Tuesday's meeting that the timing for the proposed raise is all wrong, considering that his union has faced years of pay cuts and skimpy increases.

"We bargained in good faith for the raises we got - the modest ones, and you want to give yourself 30 percent raises? It's not right," he said, leaving the podium amidst cheers and applause from the audience.

Many who spoke out against the raises cited salary studies comparing their own income to those of other public workers in other Bay Area counties, drawing comparisons to the salary studies used as a basis for the board's proposed salary hike.

"Pay studies show your county employees, these folks behind me, are being underpaid anywhere from 16 to 38 percent...but you guys are choosing to enrich yourselves before your employees," said Phil Hu, assistant general manager of Public Employees Union, Local 1.

Responding to those criticisms, Glover told the audience that the board has "vowed to work to get all wages where they should be" but could no longer delay the issue of increasing its own compensation.

The board's pay raise is set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2015 and will cost the county an additional $235,000 annually.

© Copyright 2014 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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