County to Sheriff’s Deputies Union: Pay Full Share of Your Pensions

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With the Super Bowl of labor negotiations in overtime, the last offer has been sent out to the most politically powerful labor group.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors this week delivered their last, best and final offer to more than 1,800 deputy sheriffs.

And it’s a rough one.

The county offer asks all deputies to pay their full employee share of their monthly pension contribution, which has continued to soar in recent years.

Estimates show that deputy pension costs — between employer and employee — will soon represent nearly 75 percent of each deputy’s total compensation.

In the current offer, deputies will be asked to contribute as much as 16 percent of their paychecks toward pension costs. It’s a stark increase, up from about 6.6 percent for those currently receiving the lucrative 3@50 benefit (3 percent of pay for each year worked up to age 50).

County officials now pay just over 60 percent of a deputy’s compensation to pension costs as part of the employer share.

In addition, the county offer includes steep reductions in premium pay ranges.

Both concessions are offset by a proposed 1.25-percent pay raise is meant to offset those two major concessions.

While the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs has sent an email to its members announcing the offer, it’s not clear whether members will be able to vote on whether to accept the deal.

Association President Tom Dominguez blasted county supervisors in a statement sent to Voice of OC Thursday:

From the very beginning of this negotiations process, we have put prudent economic solutions across the table. We proposed paying 100 percent of our share of pensions in January 2013. Unfortunately the Board of Supervisors has expressed little interest over the last 17 months in exploring numerous cost saving measures and working toward a fair and equitable deal. This is purely political for the Board of Supervisors.

The Supervisors’ last, best and final offer as it stands will destroy the quality law enforcement residents have come to expect from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Orange County District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation. It is unconscionable for the Board of Supervisors to propose what amounts to between a 15% and 18% pay cut to deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators, especially in view of the numerous concessions, givebacks and pension modifications AOCDS initiated and made to help the County successfully navigate the recent difficult economic times and save the taxpayers millions.

We remain hopeful that the Board of Supervisors will fulfill their duties as elected officials and continue to maintain quality law enforcement services for the people they serve.

(Click here to read the email Dominguez sent to his members.)

Most county supervisors did not return a call seeking comment on their opinion of the offer extended to law enforcement officers. Supervisor Todd Spitzer is the only Republican on the board who voted for the lucrative 3@50 pension benefit for deputy sheriffs in 2001 during an earlier term in office.

Supervisor John Moorlach did step forward to comment on the issue. He said the offer is a sign of the times.

“We’re dealing with a situation where the state has made our budget going forward very austere,” Moorlach said.

To date, the only bargaining unit that has been offered a raise was the county managers, which achieved a 1.25-percent raise through mediation after initially refusing the county’s offer.

The one group getting a raise this year is the county supervisors. They got an automatic 1.4-percent raise, because Gov. Jerry Brown increased the compensation for judges and supervisors’ pay is set to 80 percent of a judge’s salary.

While Brown authorized the raise for county supervisors, Orange County taxpayers get to fund it, because it comes out of the county general fund.

Moorlach said he is looking into whether he can legally decline the raise. It seems he will have to fight a county counsel opinion, which has not been disclosed, that was issued to all supervisors advising them that they cannot refuse the raise.

“I have certainly taken a 5-percent pay cut during the height of the recession,” Moorlach said. “I’ve also started to pay toward my pension. This is new and came as a surprise.”

“I haven’t yet come to a conclusion about what I’m going to do. But I will give it a serious review,” he added.

Moorlach said he has already contacted other attorneys to look over his options.

“I’ve have contacted some key people about options and alternatives, and I’m waiting for answers.”

Please contact Norberto Santana Jr. directly at nsantana@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/norbertosanana.

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