Supervisors Explain Rationale For Layoffs to Sheriff’s Deputies and Benefit Enhancement Vote

McGowan-MikeEarlier this week, we reported on the layoff of ten sheriff’s deputies from Yolo County.  The question that emerged from that article was based on an earlier editorial by the Sacramento Bee.

The Bee wrote, “Budget-strapped Yolo County  approved the most generous retirement enhancements of any jurisdiction locally, almost doubling benefits for sheriff’s deputies in 2008 and giving non-safety workers a 25 percent pension boost. And those benefits were approved retroactively, meaning that the new, richer formulas were applied to employees’ prior years worked, not just future years – an extraordinary windfall for those workers near retirement age.”

 

They continued, “Three of five Yolo supervisors – Mike McGowan, Mariko Yamada and Helen Thomson – approved the benefits in 2007. Only Duane Chamberlain voted ‘no’ on the enhancements both times, in 2007 and 2008. In that latter year, Yolo County faced a budget crisis that forced them to furlough workers.”

Readers asked the Vanguard to follow up and have those who voted for this package explain their rationale.

The Vanguard spoke on Thursday with both Supervisor Mike McGowan and Supervisor Matt Rexroad, who attempted to clarify what happened.

Supervisor McGowan told the Vanguard that he did not believe that you could attribute all of the layoffs to the increase in the benefits package.

When asked what he would attribute the layoffs to, he responded, “I don’t have a simple answer.”

“Those layoffs were for more reasons than just that, and fundamentally the Sheriff said he can still do an effective job even with these layoffs.”

He pointed out that employees are now paying a greater percentage of the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) contributions than they were previously, as part of the adjustments to the benefits packages.  Every employee in Yolo County has taken a ten percent pay cut.

“I just don’t think that retirement benefits per se are the direct cause and effect of any particular layoff.”

He cited a host of factors in creating the $800,000 deficit, including loss of tax revenues and cuts from the state, yet the requirements from the state remain, to provide the same level of service.

This is something that Matt Rexroad agreed with, as well.

“That’s something I would agree with,” he told the Vanguard, “I don’t think there’s one thing.”

He added, “The Sheriff to his credit, he’s been a team player on the budget in a good way.  I’m thankful for that.”

Supervisor McGowan argued that you have to put the vote to increase benefits into its proper historical perspective.

“We did this at a time when we were losing a lot of our sheriff’s deputies,” he said.  “We would train them up and they would leave because our salary and benefit packages was [sic] not completely competitive with surrounding jurisdictions.”

He explained that the Sheriff’s Deputies took a pay cut and put part of their salary towards those benefits.  “That was actually a buy-in by the Deputy Sheriff’s Association to help fund the establishment of that critical benefit,” he said.  “Without it we were losing some of our better trained deputies who went to other departments.”

As he pointed out, this was done at time when the county was able to afford these benefit increases.

“I still think we’re fine,” he continued, “We have laid off, and employees themselves have already made adjustments to their salary and benefits through collective bargaining voluntarily.”

The result is a smaller employee base which they are having to do, across the board, anyway.  They have the same amount of employees today as they had back in 1993.

“We are actually having to do more work or as much work with less people,” he said, “So candidly the benefit package is critical to keeping them at least compensated to a level that keeps them with us.”

While Supervisor McGowan indicated that they could do or in any case would have to do the same work with less employees, it was Sheriff Prieto himself last week that indicated, “Currently we are doing the best with what we have.  This concept that we can do more with less is absolutely untrue in my opinion – you are doing less with less, it’s that simple.”

The Sheriff also warned, “If we don’t come up with some sort of more budget funding, my big fear is that we’ll have to lay off more deputies or start closing a larger part of Leinberger facility.”

According to Matt Rexroad, the Bee originally got the story wrong and then “half-right” in terms of his votes on the issue of compensation.

The benefit vote for public safety occurred prior to the time that Matt Rexroad was seated on the board in January of 2007.  That vote gave public safety their public safety enhancement at 3% at 50.

What happened about ten months into Mr. Rexroad’s tenure on the board was that one of the bargaining groups, Local 39, and in fact, all groups, had their contracts come up.  Local 39 happened to be first.

Their new contract called for an increase of benefits to 2.5%, which would automatically bump up the benefit to all non-safety groups.  Supervisor Rexroad was opposed to that, but in favor of the salary increase.

“I was the only one who voted against that one [Local 39 contract] because of these benefit increases,” Mr. Rexroad told the Vanguard.

Once the trigger was pulled, it no longer mattered how he voted on the benefits increases, but Matt Rexroad wanted to support the wage increases for the other bargaining units, “Which I was okay with and we actually could have afforded had it been at the lower pension benefit, so I then voted for other contracts that included those provisions because the benefits deal was basically already decided as soon as we pulled the trigger on the first one.”

He then voted for all of the contracts.

The issue of enhanced benefits remains a thorny issue.  The arms race mentality is quite clear here, where the clear concern that Yolo County was losing quality personnel to other counties.  At the same time, it is even more clear that the wage hikes, coupled with benefit hikes in the last decade, were problematic and costly.

Unfortunately, it looks like we will not get a great explanation as to what happened that necessitated the loss of ten Sheriff’s Deputies.  And while the county can put on a brave face, it is quite obvious that the level of service is about to decline both in this regard, as well as across the board.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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17 thoughts on “Supervisors Explain Rationale For Layoffs to Sheriff’s Deputies and Benefit Enhancement Vote”

  1. SODA

    “He explained that the Sheriff’s Deputies took a pay cut and put part of their salary towards those benefits.  “That was actually a buy-in by the Deputy Sheriff’s Association to help fund the establishment of that critical benefit,” he said.  “Without it we were losing some of our better trained deputies who went to other departments.”

    Thanks DPD for pursuing this but agree, not very satisfying answers. Don’t suppose Helen would give a response. I do not understand the above: was this true at the time of the raises that deputies contributed with pay cuts? Have not heard that til now.

  2. Rifkin

    This is not hard to figure out. The budget problem in Yolo County derives from a 10-year spending binge in which they inflated their short-term costs of labor and their long-term costs of labor at rates far greater than were sustainable once the bubble burst.

    The question that needs to be asked of McGowan and Thomson, who were there for all the irresponsible votes, is what they did to prepare for bad times? It’s obvious that bad times have brought on a substantial drop in revenues. But it’s equally obvious that you can expect a recession now and then and you cannot expect revenues into the County’s coffers to grow at the rate they were growing from 2002-2008. Yet Mr. McGowan and his colleagues kept spending and spending like the good times would never end.

    [b]”We did this at a time when we were losing a lot of our sheriff’s deputies,” he said. “We would train them up and they would leave because our salary and benefit packages was [sic] not completely competitive with surrounding jurisdictions.”[/b]

    Could there be any more shortsighted statement than that?

    What McGowan is saying is that other idiots in places like Glenn County and Colusa County and Sutter County were acting stupid by increasing the amounts they were paying their deputies, so he decided we had to be stupid, too?

    This is the real problem with this union-business of comparing salaries with other nearby locales. If one raises its wages or benefits or both, the next one follows suit, and then the next one, and then the next one.

    A smarter practice would be to keep your long-run expenses in line with your long-run revenues. Yolo County has not had a long-run revenue shortfall. The county administration–which itself is terribly top-heavy and terribly overcompensated–knows over a 10-year stretch how much they can expect revenues to grow in nominal terms. But McGowan and his pals (other than Duane Chamberlain who always voted against this largesse) chose to ignore reality and chose to create a fiscal crisis. (Never mind they also have piled up approximately $350 million* in debt to the County labor force, for which they have no way of paying.)

    One might ask this about competing for deputy sheriffs: Does the fact that you are losing some employees to Colusa County not prove that you need to increase your compensation package?

    The answer is no, that does not prove much at all. First, we were not losing large numbers, just a few. And second, we had no trouble replacing those lost with competent people.

    It is true that for a small number of jobs in the County–such as the County Administrator or County Counsel–you have to pay a competitive rate to attract and keep the best people. What is very unclear to me is that our Board of Supervisors, while paying top dollar for these positions, have actually hired and kept high quality personnel. How could anyone justify paying the money we are to our top administrators who ran the County into the ground over the last 10 years? How could we possibly say we have a good county counsel when you look at the idiotic maneuvers our county tried with regard to its attempted takeover of Conaway Ranch? This was the same group which authorized spending more than $2.4 million (at something like $800 per hour) on water lawyers who got them nothing. Even just last December, the county counsel misguidedly authorized a meeting which violated the Brown Act. And we are paying her more than $200,000 per year? It is not apparent that we have good people for all the money we are spending on them.

    *I have the exact number somewhere in my notes.

  3. Don Shor

    [i]”comparing salaries with other nearby locales. If one raises its wages or benefits or both, the next one follows suit, and then the next one, and then the next one.”[/i]
    So all we need (ha!) is for one or two local governments to start reducing wages and benefits, and all the rest should follow suit.

  4. wdf1

    [i]What McGowan is saying is that other idiots in places like Glenn County and Colusa County and Sutter County were acting stupid by increasing the amounts they were paying their deputies, so he decided we had to be stupid, too?[/i]

    If we took McGowan’s statement at face value, then what is the loss to Yolo County for training law enforcement for other jurisdictions? (i.e., those who leave Yolo after training for higher salaries/benefits elsewhere)

  5. Rifkin

    So all we need (ha!) is for one or two local governments to start reducing wages and benefits, and all the rest should follow suit.

    This, in fact, is what is going on right now. It’s not so much that each jurisdiction is reducing salaries. It’s that one after the other is adopting lower pension formulas for future hires. I have not yet seen agencies greatly cutting back on retiree healthcare–a few, including Santa Rosa County, have–but it would surprise me if this is not the next wave in one then the next following suit.

    The point here, going up or going down, is that politicians at the city and county level have for years acted like lemmings, almost all unable to focus on what tie there needs to be between their revenues and their expenses.

  6. E Roberts Musser

    McGownen: “I still think we’re fine,” he continued, “We have laid off, and employees themselves have already made adjustments to their salary and benefits through collective bargaining voluntarily.”

    Prieto: “Currently we are doing the best with what we have. This concept that we can do more with less is absolutely untrue in my opinion – you are doing less with less, it’s that simple.”

    So who do we believe, McGowan or Prieto? I’ll put my money (pun intended) on Prieto’s assessment of the situation.

    McGowen: “We did this at a time when we were losing a lot of our sheriff’s deputies,” he said. “We would train them up and they would leave because our salary and benefit packages was [sic] not completely competitive with surrounding jurisdictions.”

    So you are going to follow what other counties do, no matter the fiscal impact of that decision? Spend what you don’t have? Look at what happened to the city of Vallejo, who did just that. If someone told you to go jump off a bridge, would you do that too?

    McGowan: “When asked what he would attribute the layoffs to, he responded, “I don’t have a simple answer.”

    That’s what my ex-husband said to me in “explanation” to excuse his having had an affair! His exact words: “It’s complex”. When someone get’s caught w their pants down, there is never a “simple answer”. It’s not complex, it’s very simple – irresponsible people just have no good answer for their irresponsible/immoral behavior!

    McGowan: “He added, “The Sheriff to his credit, he’s been a team player on the budget in a good way.”

    As if the Sheriff had a choice!

    dmg: “Supervisor McGowan argued that you have to put the vote to increase benefits into its proper historical perspective.”

    The voters’ historical perspective is that FOUR Supervisors voted for increases to wages/benefits for county sheriff employees at the same time they were furloughing other county employees, which was fiscally irresponsible… there is no color of lipstick you can put on this pig to make it smell any sweeter.

  7. JustSaying

    Elaine: Agree….ah, but, too much information!

    David: One more off-topic note. Should we be able to know somehow that you’re getting credit when we click on your advertiser boxes and make purchases from them? I can’t see any acknowledgement that it’s any different than before I went through your site to get to them.

  8. David M. Greenwald

    “The voters’ historical perspective is that FOUR Supervisors voted for increases to wages/benefits for county sheriff employees at the same time they were furloughing other county employees, which was fiscally irresponsible… there is no color of lipstick you can put on this pig to make it smell any sweeter. “

    That’s actually not true. They voted in 2006 for those benefits and increases and did not start laying people off until 2008 or 2009.

  9. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “That’s actually not true. They voted in 2006 for those benefits and increases and did not start laying people off until 2008 or 2009.”

    dmg: “Matt Rexroad wanted to support the wage increases for the other bargaining units, “Which I was okay with and we actually could have afforded had it been at the lower pension benefit, so I then voted for other contracts that included those provisions because the benefits deal was basically already decided as soon as we pulled the trigger on the first one.” He then voted for all of the contracts.”

    Your words, not mine…

  10. E Roberts Musser

    To dmg: Oops, missed your point “That’s actually not true. They voted in 2006 for those benefits and increases and did not start laying people off until 2008 or 2009.”

    In your article you say “The Bee wrote, “Budget-strapped Yolo County approved the most generous retirement enhancements of any jurisdiction locally, almost doubling benefits for sheriff’s deputies in 2008 and giving non-safety workers a 25 percent pension boost. And those benefits were approved retroactively, meaning that the new, richer formulas were applied to employees’ prior years worked, not just future years – an extraordinary windfall for those workers near retirement age.”

    They continued, “Three of five Yolo supervisors – Mike McGowan, Mariko Yamada and Helen Thomson – approved the benefits in 2007. Only Duane Chamberlain voted ‘no’ on the enhancements both times, in 2007 and 2008. In that latter year, Yolo County faced a budget crisis that forced them to furlough workers.””

    This indicates enhancements were approved in 2008, either just before or at the same time the county was furloughing workers, right? From wikipedia “The financial crisis from 2007 to the present is considered by many economists to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.” The 4 Supervisors who voted for the enhancements in 2008 knew perfectly well there was a recession, and should have known fiscally tough times were ahead. Instead they chose to vote FOR the enhancements anyway…

  11. David M. Greenwald

    Elaine: One was the vote for safety enhancements which Matt Rexroad did not participate in, the other was to move misc. employees to 2.5 percent, which he did. Hope that clarifies the point.

    And the Bee got a lot of things wrong in their article. The Sheriff’s were in 2005, not 2008.

  12. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “And the Bee got a lot of things wrong in their article. The Sheriff’s were in 2006, not 2008. The misc. were in 2007. The county started to lay people off in 2008.”

    Are you trying to tell me the FOUR Supervisors who voted for enhancements in 2008 did not know a recession had started in 2007?

  13. David M. Greenwald

    “Are you trying to tell me the FOUR Supervisors who voted for enhancements in 2008 did not know a recession had started in 2007?”

    They didn’t vote for enhancements in 2008, they voted for them in 2007.

  14. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “They didn’t vote for enhancements in 2008, they voted for them in 2007.”

    Are you trying to tell me the FOUR Supervisors who voted for enhancements in 2007 did not know the country was headed for the 2007 recession in 2006 when there were ample warning signs of what was coming?

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