Orange County supervisors have abruptly backed away from a controversial proposal that would have hiked the top pay for their chiefs of staff by more than $20,000 per year.

The proposal – which was originally scheduled for public consideration this morning before being deleted from the supervisors’ agenda  – would have established, for the first time, job classifications and pay grades for political aides to county supervisors.

The move sparked criticism from the county’s main rank-and-file employees union, which questioned how there’s no money for rank and file raises but plenty of room for high-ranking political operatives.

The highest-level salary for chiefs of staff could have increased from about $112,900 to more than $131,000 under the proposal.

If enacted, the new policy would have supervisors’ most senior political aides join deputy sheriffs in securing a pay hike just after being required to pay into their own pensions.

The item’s deletion is related to an issue raised by County Counsel Nick Chrisos, said Supervisor John Moorlach.

“I guess they decided then to just go ahead and delete it,” Moorlach said last week, adding that he didn’t yet have further information about Chrisos’ reasoning.

The proposal was originally scheduled for a vote on Aug. 12.

The Friday before the meeting, Voice of OC reported that, among other things, the proposal solves a potential salary twist to the recent transfer of top executive Brian Probolsky from OC Community Resources into Supervisor Pat Bates’ office.

Probolsky, who also serves as an elected member of the Moulton Niguel Water District, took over as Bates’ chief of staff and as of last month earned $122,886 according to county officials — far above the salary limit of $112,881 currently in place for political aides.

Jennifer Muir, assistant general manager for the Orange County Employees Association, sent out a sharply worded message to her members opposing the proposal.

“The County workforce is divided into haves and have nots, insiders and outsiders, the favored few and everyone else,” Muir wrote ahead of the Aug. 12 meeting.

Supervisor John Moorlach, meanwhile, noted last month that when he hired back one of his former political aides several years ago at a higher salary than authorized by county ordinance, he made up the difference out of his campaign account.

When it came time to debate the new job classification proposal on Aug. 12, it was delayed until Sept. 9.

Next week’s agenda was released last Wednesday and listed the item as being up for a vote. The staff report is available here.

But by late Thursday afternoon, the agenda’s revisions listed the item (no. 14) as deleted.

It’s unclear if there are plans to bring the item back for a vote at a future meeting.

You can reach Nick Gerda at, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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