Weeks after Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke pleaded with the board of supervisors to grant pay increases to attract and retain deputies, all but one county supervisor quietly accepted automatic pay increases.
Supervisor Lloyd Pareira was the only county supervisor to decline the bump in pay as of Friday, the county auditor-controller confirmed.
“I’m a newly elected supervisor, and I’m really still learning the job. I just didn’t think a raise was warranted yet,” Pareira said. “The county has a lot of things we’re trying to catch up on. That’s more important than me.”
Pareira came to office in January, along with two other new supervisors, Rodrigo Espinoza and Lee Lor, who both took the raises after a little more than six months in office.
Espinoza, Lor, and Supervisors Daron McDaniel and Jerry O’Banion did not respond to requests for comment from the Sun-Star.
Warnke has asked the board for three years in a row to take action and beef up deputies’ salaries and benefit package while his office struggles with low staffing and years of record-high violence. Though the Deputy Sheriff’s Association has negotiated increases for deputies, their base pay remains lower than many Valley counterparts.
The supervisors’ pay increased July 10 to about $103,000 annually, up about 1.36 percent, said Mike North, county spokesman. Warnke spoke in public comment on June 20 pleading for higher wages for his deputies. Sgt. Kevin Blake, who also sits on the Merced City Council, made the same request during a July 11 board meeting.
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.
The grand jury in its report said the supervisors’ pay should be higher to attract more quality candidates and to provide equal opportunity for potential candidates who could not afford to quit their jobs to take on the position.
The board at that time was made up of Supervisor John Pedrozo, Supervisor Kathleen M. Crookham, Supervisor Mike Nelson, Supervisor Deidre Kelsey and Supervisor Jerry O’Banion.
Warnke said supervisors use the ordinance as an excuse for being overpaid.
“The bottom line is they voted to give themselves the alignment with superior court judges that way they didn’t have to vote to give themselves raises,” he said. “That’s their excuse. They say, ‘we have nothing to do with our own raises because they’re done automatically.’ They voted for that resolution to come into place, so they can vote to decline (the raises.)”
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected from an earlier version.
Brianna Calix: 209-385-2477