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Supes OK raises for 6-figure execs

Montgomery questions, but then votes ‘yes’
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery is asking questions about wage-increase and hiring policies. Montgomery, who represents eastern Placer County on the board, shone the light Tuesday on what have normally been rubber-stamped 5 percent “merit increases” for two managers after pulling them off the consent agenda. At the end of discussion, she joined the board in voting unanimously to approve the increases. Then she queried Director of Adult System of Care Maureen Bauman on procedures that resulted in the hiring of a new staff psychiatrist with a wage and compensation package that is budgeted to go as high as $322,000. That appointment was approved, also on a 5-0 vote. The board’s consent agenda included merit increases for Richard Knecht, Health and Human Services Department client services director (to $58.96 an hour or $122,636 a year), and Janet Fogarty, managing accountant auditor (to $53.84 an hour or $111,987 a year). Consent items are usually adopted by supervisors in a collective motion without discussion. A member of the public or a supervisor can request that they be separated out for discussion. Montgomery said she wasn’t singling any particular employee out but wanted to have the raises placed on the main agenda to allow public discussion. She had made the same request two weeks ago when supervisors met in Tahoe. The agenda included a 5 percent merit increase for Linda Oakman, the county’s administrative services manager (to $53.84 an hour, or $111,987 a year). The latest round of consent agenda increases comes a month after the Journal reported the approval without discussion of seven managers’ merit pay hikes. They included increases to $243,131 for Chief Assistant CEO Rich Colwell and to $159,078 for Stephen Pecor, chief probation officer. Tom Miller, county CEO, told Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors that the Journal “clearly didn’t quite frame what they are about.” He stated the increases are for meeting or exceeding desired progress within steps in pay scales that have previously been negotiated in contract agreements. Unlike 760 Placer Public Employees Organization or Deputy Sheriff’s Association union members whose merit and step increases didn’t go before the board last fiscal year, managers’ are required to be considered by supervisors, Miller said. Miller added that the increases have all been budgeted for in this year’s county spending plan. The county’s spending plan is now in a state of flux because of new $26-million revenue-shortfall projection. Montgomery, as she had in Tahoe, made the motion to approve the increases. “I’m not trying to pick on anyone here,” Montgomery said, adding that she feels it’s important to address the issue of the increases at the policy level. Montgomery, who was elected last November, also made queries involving the recruitment and selection of psychiatrist Steve Sugden, who is filling a vacant position due to a recent retirement with the Adult System of Care. Sugden’s direct compensation for his work as staff psychiatrist between this Aug. 16 and Aug. 16, 2010, is $272,200. His total compensation package for benefits has been limited to $321,622. Sugden’s contract pact with the county includes a base salary of $204,684, plus a cost of living adjustment in November, and $23,000 for 15 weeks when he will be on-call to conduct admissions to the county psychiatric health facility. Montgomery asked Bauman whether the county is opening up the hiring procedure to do the job for less money, including calling for a request for proposals. Bauman said that “we do recruitments to see who is interested in the position” and added that the county “didn’t get a huge response.” Federal and state funds will pay for $225,135 of the compensation package while the county pays $96,487 out of its general fund. Bauman said the psychiatrist position with the county saves money because it assists in the “strategic management of short lengths of stay in the psychiatric hospital.” The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.