Raise for County CEO Riles Workers

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Orange County supervisors drew heavy criticism this week for handing their new CEO his second raise in a year and a half, especially after years of taking particularly hard lines in contract negotiations with managers and rank-and-file workers.

Last May, CEO Mike Giancola was given a raise that brought his salary to $248,057.68 plus perks like a retirement investment account, a pension, a car allowance, and cashable leave balances.

This Tuesday, supervisors also authorized a one-time cash payment of nearly $5,000.00 plus 80 hours of cashable vacation time.

Most county supervisors present on Tuesday voted to approve the raise with the exception of Supervisor Pat Bates – who is running largely unopposed for state senate – and was not present.

Supervisor Janet Nguyen, who is running in one of the most competitive state senate races in California, declined to take a public vote on the matter – continuing a trend of abstaining on key votes – saying while she supported the CEO, “the timing is a bit off for me.”

Orange County labor leaders agreed timing was bad but for different reasons. They said they are appalled that the supervisors could give Giancola such a generous raise after forcing contracts on workers and managers that included small, or nonexistent, raises and/or increased pension contributions.

“Moving forward with a pay increase for the CEO shows a lack of consideration for those who have not received a salary increase in years,” said Mark McDorman, executive director for the Orange County Managers’ Association, addressing supervisors publicly.

McDorman, who represents over 1000 managers, said his group was still in negotiations since their last contract – which was virtually imposed – expired this January. He called the increase, “grossly premature.”

Last week, supervisors voted 4-1 to appeal a lawsuit won by county attorney’s against the imposed labor pact from a year ago that featured no raises and hiked pension contributions.

Nick Berardino, who represents more than 10,000 rank-and-file county workers went a step further than McDorman, calling the raise a “pay off.”

“In politics, you got to keep the bag man happy,” Berardino said, noting that Giancola’s main attribute as CEO has been to exclusively cater to the board of supervisors’ pet projects and political interests.

“He hasn’t accomplished anything,” Berardino said. “This is a pay-off to Giancola for ensuring that the board’s political contributors get contracts.”

Supervisors, meanwhile, said Giancola deserved his raise for having such good relations with the board.

“I have been very, very pleased by what you’re bringing to the county,” said Supervisor Todd Spitzer – whose own campaign consultant secured OC Parks contracts after Spitzer pressed the CEO’s office earlier this year.

“You’re open, you’re transparent, you’re honest. You have the respect of your troops,” Spitzer told Giancola publicly.

When asked Giancola’s greatest accomplishment in his two years of service, Spitzer responded that “all five supervisors get information at the same time,” echoing his frustration about the politicization of previous boards of supervisors when he served during the airport wars of the 1990s.

“Board relations are excellent,” Spitzer said.

Board Chairman Shawn Nelson noted that even though the CEO didn’t ask for the raise, he and Bates “felt something was warranted.”

When they proposed to Giancola the proposed approach – cash payment – he didn’t complain.

Nelson defended the board’s approach, concluding “we currently have a CEO that makes less than his predecessor six years ago.”

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