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Ventura County

Board to Consider Ban on Extra Pay for Supervisors

Stipends: County staff is directed to draw up an ordinance that could end payments given for service on committees.

July 18, 2001|MARGARET TALEV | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday directed its staff to write an ordinance to prohibit members from receiving extra pay for serving on various boards and commissions.

The board voted 4 to 0 to draft the ordinance. Supervisor John K. Flynn, who receives up to an additional $200 per meeting of the Assessment Appeals Board, abstained.

The proposal was pitched by Supervisor Steve Bennett, who has said that board members already are paid for their service and should not be double-dipping into taxpayer funds.

Flynn accused Bennett of "dishonest" motives.

"It's a chest-pounding effort on your part," Flynn chided. " 'I'm Steve Bennett, I'm looking out for your interests.' You put the rest of the board down when you do that.

"I'm not going to defend myself to you," said Flynn, who received an additional $2,100 last year as chairman of the Assessment Appeals Board. "I think it's deserving of payment for the responsibilities [I] take on."

Supervisors Judy Mikels and Frank Schillo, who both accept added fees for some meetings, had criticized Bennett in recent days for the manner in which he had raised the issue.

Bennett had been filling in for Schillo at a Ventura County Transportation Committee meeting when the group considered whether to raise meeting stipends from $50 to $100. Bennett said supervisors, who earn $85,000 a year, shouldn't be accepting stipends at all. At his request, the commission scrapped stipends for supervisors.

But on Tuesday, Schillo and Mikels helped Bennett move his plan forward with little comment. Supervisor Kathy Long, who has chosen not to accept stipends, echoed her earlier support for the plan. "Those boards are job assignments. It's part of doing our job."

Flynn was of a different mind. Furious over what he saw as sanctimonious behavior on Bennett's part, he researched how much money the county spent redecorating Bennett's office after his election last fall. He presented his findings--$18,274.18--at the board meeting.

Bennett countered that much of that work had been scheduled by the county executive's office, that the renovations were the first in 20 years on that particular office space, long occupied by former Supervisor Susan Lacey, and that he had shopped around to save the county money on a sofa, furnishings and other materials. Furthermore, he said, he has been making an effort to cut down on costs to taxpayers by hiring only three staff members instead of the allotted four, and by paying his own automobile mileage for local travel.

"When you challenge the perks of powerful people, you have to be ready for intimidation," Bennett told the audience. "Today, what you're seeing is a case of somebody who did not like their stipend being called out."

As Flynn and Bennett bickered, they angered county employees who had packed the audience on the eve of a threatened strike to hear what the leaders had to say about their own demands for better wages and pension benefits.

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