In a public Facebook post that has since been deleted, Atwater’s mayor said the Merced County Board of Supervisors is “raping” taxpayers with bloated salaries, eliciting reactions from advocates of victims of sexual assault.
Mayor Jim Price spoke with a Facebook blogger about a number of issues in Atwater, including law enforcement pay and the city’s debt, among other topics. He commented on Saturday under the video posted on Facebook that much of the interview was left on the cutting room floor.
“The whole thing was well over an hour,” he wrote. “Wish more had made it like how the BOS are raping the residents with their pay. Just sayin.”
Merced County supervisors’ pay increased July 10 to about $103,000 annually, up about 1.36 percent, according to county staffers. Supervisor Lloyd Pareira was the only county supervisor to decline the bump.
Us as advocates, we’re not here to shame them and make them feel bad. We’re here to educate them. The misuse of this word comes from either ignorance or cruelty.
Chee Yang, program director for Valley Crisis Center, on the casual use of “rape”
Several hours after the mayor commented, Supervisor Daron McDaniel reacted to his words with another comment. “Raping? You are really going to use the word rape in that context,” McDaniel wrote. “You may not agree with the pay Sir but it is not Rape by any means.”
Price told the Sun-Star on Monday he used a “poor choice of words,” but stood by his views on supervisor salaries. He pointed to the Merced County Sheriff’s Office’s struggles in keeping deputies and hiring new ones.
Merced County sheriff’s deputies are among the lowest paid in the San Joaquin Valley while Merced’s Board of Supervisors are among the highest paid, according to data analyzed by the Sun-Star.
“It’s just my personal view, it’s not a view I express on behalf of the city,” Price said. “(Supervisors) are in control of their collective pay, and they set up a system by which they get pay raises. ... They set that up and they can take it away.”
Supervisors do not vote on their own pay. Instead, their pay is linked to judges’ pay. The system was established in 2007 through an ordinance after the Merced County grand jury suggested changes in how supervisors were paid.
McDaniel rebuked Price on Monday, telling the Sun-Star “that word” should only be used to refer to sexual assault. “I know a lot of people who have been through that, and would never use it just frivolously like that,” he said. “That’s a serious word.”
(Supervisors) are in control of their collective pay, and they set up a system by which they get pay raises. ... They set that up and they can take it away.
Mayor Jim Price of Atwater on supervisor pay
“As a mayor of a city, he should know better,” he continued.
McDaniel said the supervisors are working on an effort to better pay deputies.
Using the word “rape” to describe anything other than sexual assault is a problem, according to Chee Yang, program director for Valley Crisis Center, which advocates for victims of abuse and sexual assault.
Using the word casually can be a trigger that makes victims feel unsafe or experience flashbacks of the incident, she said. Those issues are particularly poignant when the word is spoken by a person in power, she said.
“Many people who say things like this don’t have bad intentions,” she said. “Us as advocates, we’re not here to shame them and make them feel bad. We’re here to educate them. The misuse of this word comes from either ignorance or cruelty.”