In response to critiques that they weren’t sharing in the Great Recession pain of layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts, the county’s top elected officials responded last year by taking their own 5 percent pay cuts.
The highly paid executives called it a symbolic gesture to the nearly 20,000 workers connected to the civic center, who are often called the “county family.” But it was a voluntary gesture, and the officials had the choice to not renew their pay cuts for this year.
And it looks like three of them decided to do just that. County Auditor/Controller David Sundstrom, Assessor Webster Guillory and Treasurer/Tax Collector Chriss Street took their pay cuts back this July, Voice of OC has learned.
The three executives made their decisions in the wake of cutbacks that have forced the layoffs of 350 county employees and furloughs for another 4,000 over the past two years, according union officials. It’s worth noting that the electeds who decided against taking the pay cuts are the ones who keep the closest watch on what money is coming in and out.
“To hardworking county employees, it says you don’t matter, you’re the underclass and it’s your responsibility — not ours — to carry the load during tough times. To the taxpayers, it says welcome to the city of Bell South,” said Jennifer Muir, Communications Director for the Orange County Employees Association.
Guillory and Street did not return a call for comment.
Sundstrom said he took back his full salary because his department has not experienced layoffs or furloughs. With the state of the economy, Sundstrom said he basically needs the money.
And he doesn’t see the point of symbolism for the sake of symbolism.
“In my office, we haven’t gone to furlough. I haven’t laid anyone off,” Sunstrom said. “At this point in time, we haven’t experienced these pressures that have been occurring elsewhere.”
If the state budget implodes, Sundstrom said that might change and he might have to go back to the salary cut. “If I had to do something more drastic with my staff, then I would consider taking the cut,” he said.
“I like leading by example. But at this point, I’m not asking my staff to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.”
— NORBERTO SANTANA, JR.