El Dorado County’s Dirty Little Secret- BONUSES FOR ELECTED OFFICIALS

by Placerville Newswire / Jul 11, 2017 / comments

[Dan Dellinger]
Part One - Bad Judgment?...  Outright Corruption?...  or White-Collar Crime?

About five years ago community activists in the City of Bell California discovered that their elected officials had voted to give lavish salaries (two and three times higher than most cities pay) to themselves and top city employees like the police chief and city manager. Federal investigators moved in and several of Bell’s top officials were jailed for corruption. About the same time, local activists here discovered similar behavior in El Dorado County. Where instead of paying Bell’s easy to spot spiked salaries, some of El Dorado County’s elected officials were quietly pocketing extra bonus money for what amounts to re-election, ballot qualification, empire-building, and showing up for work.  

    Paying bonuses seemed like a good idea at the time… back in the early 1990’s the County of El Dorado had a problem keeping civil service employees. So in 1993 the Board of Supervisors instituted a retention program paying civil service employees (not elected officials) non-performance bonuses on a progressive scale of 5% - 16% of their base salary based on the number of years worked for El Dorado County, and an extra 10% of their base salary for earning specialized credentials such as a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) certificate. Later, other bonuses were added including giving some high responsibility employees extra “management leave” (paid time off in addition to their paid vacation time) and allowing them to receive the unused portions equal to 4.6 % of their base salary at the end of the year, and “extra duty” pay following a departmental reorganization. Theses bonuses were calculated as a percentage of the employee’s base pay and then added to his or her salary giving the employee the extra benefit of pumping up their retirement pension as well. 

    During the summer of 2013 a comparison study of elected officials salaries and benefits posted on California State Treasurer John Chaing’s official website revealed that several El Dorado County elected officials were taking home significantly higher amounts of money than the salaries advertised for their office before they were elected. Digging further, community researchers soon uncovered the shameful fact that as early as 1994, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors had quietly added elected officials onto the salary resolution authorizing these bonuses for civil service employees. While several El Dorado County elected officials are enriching themselves through this non-performance bonus scheme, the three biggest abusers are the Auditor-Controller, District Attorney, and the Treasurer-Tax Collector. 

     Once the discovery of the non-performance bonus scheme became public, pressure began to build on the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors to address the problem. By late 2013 two influential watchdog organizations the National Tax Limitation Committee and the California Taxpayer Protection Committee joined with local community activists to help bring an end to El Dorado County’s shameful Bonus Scandal. On November 18, 2013 then Supervisors Ron Briggs and Ray Nutting pushed through a long overdue vote abolishing bonuses for elected officials. Dozens of citizens packed the Board Chamber to witness that day’s historic 4-1 vote. Subsequent news reports praised Supervisors Nutting, Briggs, Veerkamp and Santiago for opposing their colleagues and doing the right thing. Trusting voters now believed that politicians elected to County office during the 2014 election cycle would only be paid the publically listed salaries advertised for each office. 

     All the while, the fix was in… with the past year’s Bonus Scandal behind them, all of the incumbents who ran in 2014 were re-elected. With just three weeks left before the beginning of the new four year terms for County elected officials, Supervisor Brian Veerkamp brought forth a new and more generous resolution restoring these non-performance bonuses for his recently re-elected colleagues. On December 9, 2014, Veerkamp’s resolution restoring the corrupt practice of giving non-performance bonuses to elected officials passed on a 3-2 vote. 


Dan Dellinger is a locally based Government Relations and Political Campaign Consultant who can be reached at dandellinger@infostations.com