Negotiations between Orange County supervisors and Santa Barbara County CEO Chandra Wallar seemingly went off the track Tuesday after Wallar apparently issued a demand for an up-or-down vote.
After a tense exchange, supervisors gave her that.
They voted unanimously that they wanted her as CEO but were never able to reach agreement on how much to pay her.
Toward the end of Tuesday’s session, even Supervisor Pat Bates, a key negotiator, seemed to publicly walk away from the deal.
“We’re not recommending it. We’re not making a motion,” said Bates, who had come under significant criticism from conservative leaders like the Flash Report’s Jon Fleischman (a member of the Voice of OC Community Editorial Board) for her earlier stated support of a salary of more than $300,000 to match nearby counties like San Bernardino and Riverside.
At one point, supervisors suggested that Supervisor Janet Nguyen, another negotiator, call Wallar on her cell phone to issue a counter offer.
That never happened.
Since Voice of OC broke the story last month that supervisors were quietly courting Wallar, the sticking point has been over her pension.
County supervisors are insisting that all labor groups pay their employee share of annual pension contributions, but negotiations with Wallar became tense when they applied that demand to the county’s top post.
Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson and John Moorlach have been adamant that they do not want to pay more than the $262,000 total compensation they were paying former CEO Tom Mauk.
For the first time since Voice of OC reported on negotiations, supervisors openly confirmed Tuesday that the issue is over Wallar's pension.
And while Nguyen and Bates argued publicly that Wallar would indeed pay for her full pension obligation, the salary package they proposed for her — $290,000 — far exceeded Mauk's, and the votes were not there.
At one point, Moorlach said he might agree to $270,000 but only if Wallar gave up the $15,000 moving bonus that was being offered.
Supervisor Todd Spitzer said the message from Wallar, who faces repairing her relations Santa Barbara County supervisors, was clear:
“She made it clear to me that if there isn’t interest in moving up from $254,000 she’s not interested,” Spitzer said. He quoted Wallar as saying, “If you offer me Tom Mauk’s salary, I’m not going to take the job.”
On Tuesday, supervisors said that Mauk’s former salary is the most any future CEO is going to get.