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Top Riverside County Official Declines Orange County Offer

August 26, 2003|Jean O. Pasco and Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writers

Orange County supervisors remain no closer than they were eight months ago to replacing their fired chief executive after failing to woo Riverside County Chief Executive Larry Parrish.

Supervisors met Monday to discuss the search, which has taken far longer than they expected.

Former Anaheim City Manager James D. Ruth has held the job on an interim basis since January, but had hoped to leave by now.

Parrish was considered a leading candidate, having been Orange County's chief administrator from 1985 to 1989. He resigned to become a lobbyist in Sacramento and was hired in 1992 as Riverside County's chief executive.

After an interview last week, Parrish, 63, told supervisors he wouldn't consider the job because the county's retirement benefits don't match what he would earn by staying in Riverside.

Riverside County supervisors are expected to sweeten that today by approving a $24,000 increase in his salary to nearly $220,000 a year.

"They came across as very sincere in trying to find solutions to the problems they're facing," Parrish said Monday of the Orange County supervisors.

"In the end, it couldn't pencil out because of the difference in retirement systems. And the generosity of my board here was too much to overcome."

Under Riverside County's formula, Parrish would earn 90% of his pay on retirement, which he said he expects to do in three to five years. Orange County has a $200,000 salary cap for calculating retirement amounts and bases future benefits on a smaller percentage of pay.

Orange County board Chairman Tom Wilson said supervisors never stopped looking for candidates and interviewed an applicant on Monday, whom he declined to name.

He said Ruth has pledged to stay until a chief executive is hired to permanently replace Michael Schumacher, who was fired in January for lax management.

"There have been a lot of names out there, but we're not done yet," Wilson said. "We have full confidence we'll find a top-notch CEO."

Riverside County supervisors said this week that Parrish's raise wasn't prompted by Orange County's offer, though the change in his contract was proposed after Parrish met with Orange County supervisors in Santa Ana.

Under newer contracts, they said, Riverside has promised to pay executives 5.5% more than their next-highest-paid subordinate.

The board intended to update Parrish's contract to include the same provision after a new chief executive for the Riverside County Regional Medical Center was hired in March but didn't get around to doing it, said John F. Tavaglione, chairman of the Riverside County board of supervisors.

Douglas Bagley, the hospital chief executive, was hired at $208,439 a year.

Parrish, who makes $195,941 annually now, would make $219,903 a year after the salary boost is approved.

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