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County to Reimburse Employees in Military


SANTA ANA — To aid the dozens of county employees in the military reserves, county supervisors agreed Tuesday to make up for any pay loss the employees suffer if called to active duty.

So far, 10 county employees have been called to duty since the outbreak of war last week, Supervisor Don R. Roth said. While exact figures were not available, county officials estimate that 75 to 100 of the county's 16,000 employees are in the reserves.

Board Chairman Gaddi H. Vasquez proposed the measure after hearing from Wade Bennett, a county firefighter and paramedic who expects to be called up by the Air National Guard this week. Bennett said after Tuesday's meeting that going on active duty will mean about a $2,000-a-month pay cut.

"It's hard," Bennett said. "People in the reserves don't expect anyone to give them any pampering because we chose to be in there.

"But almost everybody makes more money as a civilian than they do in the military. And your lifestyle adjusts to that. It's a radical change. . . . We're just asking that they make it so we can keep rolling, so we can keep up with our bills and other obligations we have."

The pay proposal was approved unanimously by the four supervisors. Supervisor Thomas F. Riley, who recently underwent heart bypass surgery, was absent from the meeting.

"We want to thank you for all you're doing," Supervisor Roger R. Stanton said before voting to approve the measure.

"I sure would have liked it myself back in '42," said Roth, who was a Navy combat pilot during World War II.

Roth's chief aide, Dan Wooldridge, said the latest action is an expansion of a program the county approved when the Persian Gulf crisis erupted in August. At that time, the county agreed to continue medical benefits for county employees who had been called to active duty.

The cities of Santa Ana and Brea have adopted similar measures to pay workers the difference between their civilian and military pay. The cities of Irvine and Brea have voted to continue health benefits. Vasquez said several other counties throughout the state, including Los Angeles, have voted to make up the pay difference to minimize the hardship on military families who are also county employees.

While it is not clear yet what the total cost of that commitment will be to Orange County, Wooldridge said, it is a gesture of support for the efforts of the forces in the Middle East.

"Uncle Sam may be feeding those guys or the women in the military but they're not responsible for seeing that their kids are still eating, or their wives, or other dependents."

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