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Supervisors OK Pay Cut Dependent on Contract : L.A. County: Molina urges a voluntary 8.25% salary reduction. But the board votes to take whatever concession rank-and-file employees approve.


Los Angeles County supervisors agreed Tuesday to take a pay cut but said they will decide how much after they find out whether the county's 80,000 rank-and-file workers agree to wage concessions.

The Board of Supervisors is involved in negotiations with a coalition of 13 unions representing the bulk of the county's work force in an attempt to shave salaries an average of 8.25%, saving more than $215 million to balance the budget.

To gain the moral high ground in the negotiations, Supervisor Gloria Molina asked her colleagues to commit to voluntarily reducing their pay by 8.25% to demonstrate leadership to county workers. A pay cut for county employees "should start right here," Molina said.

But on an amendment by Supervisor Ed Edelman, the board agreed to take whatever wage concession the county's union work force finally accepts.

"I think it's a fair way to do it," said Edelman, the board's chairman. "Why should one group sacrifice more than another?"

For their part, union leaders said the action was immaterial. "We don't think there is any reason for anyone to take a pay cut," said Bud Treece, spokesman for the coalition of county unions that has presented an alternative set of budget recommendations. The recommendations balance the $13.1-billion spending plan without layoffs or wage concessions.

After the vote, Edelman and Supervisors Deane Dana, Mike Antonovich and Yvonne Brathwaite Burke said they are committed to accepting whatever pay cut county workers accept. Under the law, supervisors' salaries are set by county ordinance at $99,297--the same amount set by the Legislature for Superior Court judges. The salaries cannot be reduced--or increased--even by a vote of the board, according to the county counsel.

Molina abstained rather than vote for the amended motion and said: "This isn't leadership. Talk is cheap, and that's all this is. . . . Action is what the county is waiting for. Leadership is action. . . . This is wimpy!"

Before the meeting was over, Molina fired off a letter to the county auditor-controller asking that her pay be pared by 8.25% as of Oct. 1, the same date that officials anticipate that cuts will come for the rest of the 80,000-member work force.

At the same time, Molina left herself a loophole, saying that she may reconsider her pay cut after she sees what decrease workers ultimately take and how her colleagues respond to it. "I'll evaluate it at the time," she said. "But I will probably stick with the 8.25% cut."

Antonovich objected to Molina's characterization, insisting that board members demonstrated leadership by indicating that they would take the whole 8.25% cut as long as the rank-and-file also goes that far.

Edelman's amendment also asks that other elected officials, including Superior Court judges, Sheriff Sherman Block, Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti and Assessor Kenneth Hahn also take the same pay cut as the rank-and-file. A spokesman for Block said the sheriff would accept the pay cut.

The debate over pay cuts came as supervisors opened their second day of hearings on the controversial county budget, which is $600 million short of what officials said was the minimum necessary to continue providing an acceptable level of services.

A variety of officials and community members spoke before the board, pleading for money for the departments and programs of their concern.

Even the Sheriff's Department--which is facing a proposed 3% cut, the smallest of any large department--appealed to the board for tens of millions of dollars more.

Backed by nearly 200 supporters sporting T-shirts reading "SOS--Save Our Streets," Sheriff's Department officials said that the budget cuts will mean that thousands of prisoners will have to be released from at least two jail facilities that will have to be closed. Under the proposed budget, the department will lose $30 million from a $1-billion budget. Most county departments are shouldering cuts of 22% to 30%.

Undersheriff Jerry Harper told the board that reform measures recommended by the Kolts report, particularly more training for officers, will not be provided under the proposed budget.

Sheriff Block was scheduled to appear before the board but was hospitalized Monday after an adverse reaction to medication he is taking for recently diagnosed lymphoma. Sheriff's officials said that Block was feeling much better by day's end and that he is expected to return to work in a few days.

Board members were skeptical about the department's assertions. "There's fat everywhere, including the Sheriff's Department," Molina said.

Barry Nidorf, chief probation officer, told supervisors that money spent on police and prosecutors is wasted if there is no supervision of criminals after they are convicted.

Nidorf, whose department is facing a $31-million cutback, said 80% of convicted criminals are assigned to the probation system. But with the budget cuts, most of them will have little or no supervision.

As the hearings continued late into the afternoon, supporters of the county's libraries said their services are no less important than those provided by the Sheriff's Department.

"All the television cameras have left the room," said Huell Howser, a KCET host who appeared in support of the libraries. "The libraries are not lead story material."

But Howser noted that the county will spend more than $1 billion to arrest and prosecute criminals but cannot "find $30 million to keep libraries for our children. It is a disgrace."

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