Item number 6 on next Tuesday’s Board agenda has garnered some media attention, as the head of the County’s largest public employee union has been calling anyone and everyone who will listen. First he screamed and yelled for some structure to job titles, descriptions and classifications on the Fifth Floor. Now that it is being proposed, it is providing him with another opportunity to scream and yell. It becomes obvious that screaming and yelling is a way to show the union’s membership that its leader is doing something, maybe anything, to justify his own massive compensation package.
After being elected to the position of Supervisor, I went through the numerous resumes that I received and built a team. With too many wonderful applicants, I went through numerous interviews to narrow down the choices. It was not easy, but it is fun to reflect back on the results these past eight years. The most critical position to fill was that of Chief of Staff. A surprise applicant was Professor Mario Mainero, who was on the faculty of Whittier Law School and highly regarded by the students for doubling the bar pass rate. He came to assist me in my first few years, until he decided to accept a full-time position at Chapman Law School. Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Mainero — December 4, 2009. Chapman’s Student Bar Association recently presented Professor Mainero with the M. Katherine Baird Darmer “Outstanding Professor of the Year” award. All to say, he loves being a bar prep professor. Every time I see Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law Dean Tom Campbell, he tells me how happy he is to have Professor Mainero on his staff.
Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Francis succeeded Professor Mainero and served me ably until Costa Mesa’s City Manager (CEO) made him an offer that he could not refuse. The offer was so nice, that I could not make a counter. Rick is still enjoying his role as Assistant CEO for Costa Mesa and I still rib his boss, Tom Hatch, about his “snatch.” Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Register — December 9, 2011 . Rick accepted his new position a few weeks before the beginning of my second round as Board Chair in 2012. Therefore, it was critical to find a strong replacement for the position.
One of the first members of my original team was Ian Rudge. Like Mario, he is also a Claremont McKenna College grad. Ian obtained his masters from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs with the University of Texas, with an emphasis in public employee pension plans. Early in my first term, the Performance Audit Department was established. Both of the top two candidates for the Director of this new endeavor wanted to hire Ian away from me. The winning candidate did. For 2012, Ian was the best person to serve as my Chief of Staff. But, as he was earning a higher salary in his Performance Audit position, I had to come up with a creative remedy. That is discussed at the conclusion of the Voice of OC piece below. Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Register — April 29, 2013 and MOORLACH UPDATE — OCERS Election — October 26, 2012. Ian was recently recruited away from my office by the Chief of Probation, Steve Sentman, where Ian now ably serves as the Director of the Administrative and Fiscal Division. He was made an offer that I could not counter. Ian is a rising star and will be a real asset to the County of Orange should he decide to continue his career here.
Now what to do? It would be hard to hire someone for a short period of time and I preferred someone with experience and a strong background with the County. With the union head screaming and yelling about policy advisors to the Supervisors (I don’t refer to them as “political aides”), I decided to ask a former County key manager to come out of retirement and work for me part-time until the conclusion of my term. Bob Wilson had a distinguished career at the County and he was willing to volunteer at an hourly rate that is one of the lowest in my office. He is a genuine case of servant leadership and has been a real asset to my team.
Thanks for allowing me to reflect back over the past two terms on this topic. My focus was to build a brain trust to assist me in addressing the critical issues facing the County. In this way, I have had policy advisors whose top priority was to do what is best for the taxpayers that I represent. My staff members are not political cronies. They are competent and highly qualified professionals. Consequently, they would make excellent contributions in other positions within the County, should they seek to pursue such opportunities. Trying to provide the appropriate management and policy structure for positions on the Fifth Floor is the right thing to do. To have the good get lost by only focusing on the proposed salary ranges is a disservice to what is trying to be accomplished. With that said, I believe that the salary range for the Chief of Staff position is worthy of a Board discussion. The first concern I have is why was the top of the range increased. The second is requesting a clarification that increasing the range does not mean, in the slightest manner, that current salaries will be raised. That is my interpretation. Consequently, inferring that this agenda item might give or will raise salaries is a stretch of the truth. The remainder of the agenda item appears to be the proper professional approach, as opposed to the recent screaming and yelling.
Top Aides to Supervisors Might Get Big Raises
By NORBERTO SANTANA JR.
Orange County Supervisors are set to vote on a plan Tuesday that would establish – for the first time – job classifications and pay grades for political aides to county supervisors.
The proposal would hike the top pay for chiefs of staff from $112, 881 to $131,123.
If enacted, the new policy would have supervisors’ most senior political aides join deputy sheriffs in securing a pay hike just after being required to pay into their own pensions.
Currently, there’s only one job classification for fifth floor offices, executive aide, and that salary range goes from $29,993 to $112,881.
The update was requested by the county Human Resources department.
"It is best practice to establish separate pay ranges for each of the four job classifications that are commensurate with the level of complexity and scope of responsibility for each class," reads the staff report for Tuesday’s meeting.
"The changes proposed for your Board’s consideration are in alignment with equivalent internal classifications and will provide sufficient compensation to attract and retain competent staff for members of the Board and elected officials."
The county’s largest union is already on the warpath over the proposal openly questioning supervisors on how there’s no money for rank and file raises but plenty of room for high-ranking political operatives.
If it’s just about establishing best practices, union officials question why the top end range is being adjusted…up by more than 15 percent.
This week, Nick Berardino – general manager for the Orange County Employees Association – send out a sharply worded message to his members opposing the proposal.
"The County workforce is divided into haves and have nots, insiders and outsiders, the favored few and everyone else," Berardino wrote.
"We’re everyone else. For us, the County is a place of limited resources, falling real wages and takeaways. But there’s another County, a County where the sky is the limit, a County where who you know is the only thing that matters, a County where you can get a huge wage increase in the blink of an eye."
This proposal has the potential to be the latest in a series of controversies involving supervisors’ political aides and top county executives.
A 2010 county human resources audit found that county executives were granting themselves questionable raises and other ensuring disclosures have focused on supervisors’ political aides skirting merit selection rules for job recruitments as they shuffled back and forth between political offices, campaigns and county work.
In 2013, county HR officials changed hiring practices in reaction to hearings on state legislation that would have restricted county hiring practices.
Recently, County Supervisor Pat Bates questioned HR officials from the supervisors’ dais on those restrictions asking how they would deal with a wave of political aides from outgoing supervisors looking for jobs given the 2013 HR policy.
Under the new transfer policy, political aides that have never worked for a county department would have to go through competitive recruitment for jobs.
Meanwhile, employees who have previous department experience could simply transfer into open county jobs.
The new salary band up for debate Tuesday also solves a potential salary twist to the recent transfer of top executive Brian Probolsky from OC Community Resources into Bates’ office.
Probolsky, who also serves as an elected member of the Moulton Niguel Water District, took over as Bates’ chief of staff last month given that her longtime chief of staff, Don Hughes, is out on a family leave.
County officials said his chief of staff posting is considered a temporary reassignment so his job will stay open at OC Community Resources.
Except, he currently earns $122,886.40 according to county officials — far above the salary range of $112, 881 approved by supervisors.
Probolsky, who is also currently being investigated by the human resources department because of discrepancies on his government timecard also drew attention when he originally transitioned from Bates office into OC Community Resources back in 2012, given that he secured an immediate 80 percent raise in salary.
Probolsky had been working as an EA to Bates since 2010.
When County Supervisor John Moorlach several years ago hired back one of his former political aides, Ian Rudge, at a higher salary than authorized by county ordinance, he made up the difference.
"I paid the difference out of my campaign account," Moorlach said, adding that it was billed as an office holders expense.
"I didn’t think that (expanding pay ranges) was an option," he said.
Moorlach’s approach to the situation did not add any additional salary or pension costs to taxpayers for political aides.
That’s unclear for the new policy.
Tuesday’s meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. at the County Hall of Administration, 333 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Santa Ana, CA
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