Orange County government's highest-paid executives will spend the next month scrambling to defend a series of large raises they and others received in recent years.
Yet it's uncertain whether the generous raises — one example being more than 30 percent in one year for Deputy CEO Rob Richardson — will actually be rolled back.
The Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted unanimously for the review based on a recommendation by Supervisors Pat Bates and Shawn Nelson. Bates and Nelson made the recommendation after reviewing a scathing report issued earlier this year by county Performance Auditor Steve Danley that criticized lax procedures in the county's Human Resources Department for justifying and documenting raises.
Danley and CEO Tom Mauk have squared off over the report, with Mauk staunchly defending the raises for his executive team and questioning some of the audit's conclusions about improper justification for the raises. Bates and Nelson spent the last few months examining the dispute.
On Tuesday, supervisors backed Danley on every disputed item. Mauk, in turn, didn't oppose their conclusions, saying he would support full implementation of their suggestions.
Mauk agreed to place top executives on temporary promotion status while the documentation for their raises is prepared. "I'm not a big fan of it, but it's not a sword I want to fall on," he said.
While most supervisors didn't say much about the salary increases — the result of a seemingly automatic system of salary hikes known as reclassifications — Supervisor John Moorlach lashed out at the executive ranks over the raises.
"I think some of these raises were nuts," Moorlach said. "I'm ready to blow up."
Moorlach later chided his colleagues, saying "everyone is being so polite."
Bates struck a diplomatic tone, saying the classifications where "things we have to be more cognizant of."
"We see the shortcomings, and we're stepping up to the plate," Bates said.
Supervisors also want a thorough briefing on how to implement another suggestion by the auditor that the county hire a third-party negotiator to deal with labor negotiations.
And they want more detail about what's going on inside the Human Resources Department. For example, Mauk told supervisors Tuesday that a senior human resources official was retiring, and supervisors reacted with surprise.
"When am I getting a memo?" asked Moorlach.
— NORBERTO SANTANA JR.