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Despite Vows, Supervisors Haven't Cut Pay Permanently

February 23, 1995|MATT LAIT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — Despite post-bankruptcy pledges that they would slash their own pay by 5%, Supervisors Gaddi H. Vasquez and Roger R. Stanton have not been in any hurry to reduce their salary and benefit costs to the county.

Neither Vasquez nor Stanton, nor any other member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, has taken steps to have his or her annual base pay permanently reduced from $82,056.

So far Supervisors Marian Bergeson and Jim Silva have refused to accept county cars.

And Vasquez said he has begun buying the gasoline for his county car and paying the bills for his county-provided cellular phone.

Citing the need to lead by example, Vasquez and Stanton vowed more than two months ago to slash their own salaries and benefits by 5%. The two declared that they would write checks to reimburse the county 5% of their paychecks. Supervisor William G. Steiner joined them in taking the pledge shortly thereafter.

But when asked Tuesday when he planned to fulfill his promise, Vasquez responded: "It's just a matter of writing the check."

Stanton's executive assistant, Kathleen Freed, initially said Stanton had been waiting for county staff to calculate what he owes, before writing a check to reimburse the county. She said Stanton on Wednesday received a preliminary estimate from staff that he would have to reimburse $225 a month from his paychecks to reach his goal of 5%.

Hours later, Stanton contacted a Times reporter and produced a photocopy of a personal check payable to the county that he said he had written Monday, when county offices were closed in observance of Presidents Day. The county's personnel director said Stanton's check was hand-delivered to his office Wednesday afternoon by a Stanton assistant, after a reporter inquired at Stanton's office about the reimbursement.

Steiner said that as his way of reducing his income, he wrote a $204 check last week to his favorite charity.

"Until there is formal action for across-the-board . . . pay cuts for all county employees, I'll be making my contributions to charity," said Steiner, who served as the director of the Orangewood Home for abused children before joining the Board of Supervisors.

The charity Steiner chose for his donation is the Adam Walsh Foundation for missing children, where he sits as a member of board of directors.

The supervisors' apparent foot-dragging has upset some community activists, who are seeking drastic reforms of county government.

"They've been posturing and relating to us that they have made the cuts. I don't think making a charitable contribution is what we have in mind," said Bruce Whitaker, a member of the Committees of Correspondence, a group that asked the supervisors to reduce their salaries and benefits by 10%.

"We've been giving them a little bit of time, but I think we're going to have to get on them now."

Whitaker said his group also has pressed Supervisors Silva and Bergeson to cut their salaries, but the two have refused. He said the group has been more lenient on Silva and Bergeson, because they were not in office at the time of the Dec. 6 financial collapse.

Bergeson nonetheless said she is not accepting the $100-per-meeting stipend she is entitled to receive for participating in meetings of the Orange County Transportation Authority.

Vasquez said that he too is not accepting the stipend but added that since 1993 he has only accepted the stipend when he served as chairman of the county transportation board because the position required extra duties.

In addition to their base pay, supervisors received a number of benefits and perks that increase their annual salary cost to more than $95,000. For example, supervisors sitting on the board before March 15, 1993, are entitled to a monthly car allowance of $715. If elected after that date, the allowance is $465, or the free use of a county leased and insured car.

Furthermore, the supervisors get an annual $3,500 "Management Optional Benefit Plan," which can be cashed out at the end of the year. The supervisors also receive unlimited vacation days each year.

Bill Ward, another member of the Committees of Correspondence, said he was surprised and disappointed that the supervisors have not yet readjusted their salaries: "It's doesn't look good. In a sense (the reductions) are only symbolic. I'm sure the bankruptcy attorneys can burn up that much in an hour. But it is still symbolic and they should do it."

If the supervisors are waiting because they haven't figured out how much 5% of their salaries is, Ward said he's ready to help.

"I've got a calculator they can use," he quipped.

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