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Residency questioned on panel that sets governor's pay

May 24, 2013|By Patrick McGreevy
  • Gov. Jerry Brown responds to a question concerning his revised 2013-14 state budget plan during a recent news conference at the Capitol in Sacramento.
Gov. Jerry Brown responds to a question concerning his revised 2013-14… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

John Stites is among a small group of people who will decide next month how much California's governor and lawmakers should be paid. Even though he lives primarily in Nevada.

Stites maintains a home in Los Angeles County that he stays in for weeks at a time, but said that about a year ago his primary residence became a house he bought in 2009 in Henderson, Nev.

The retired Los Angeles County sheriff’s sergeant is an appointee of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to the California Citizens Compensation Commission. The panel meets annually, including a session scheduled for June, to set the pay of California’s elected state officials.

Commission Chairman Tom Dalzell said he is uncomfortable enough about the situation that he is asking for a legal opinion on whether Stites can serve on the seven-member panel.

“Decisions affecting California legislators and constitutional officers should be made by people who are registered to vote and pay taxes in California,” Dalzell said. “That’s my gut reaction.”

Public documents show Stites registered to vote in Nevada in 2010 and voted in the November election that year. The commissioner said he is still a taxpayer in California, paying a substantial amount of property taxes on the home he maintains in the Avocado Heights section of Los Angeles County.

He has been in California for six of the last eight weeks as he attends to business here, including service as a delegate to the union representing Los Angeles County deputies.

The state Constitution is not clear that Stites must have a primary residence in California. He said he consulted with former Commission Chairman Charles Murray more than a year ago and was told there did not appear to be a problem with him serving on the panel. Stites and Murray are part of a faction on the commission that has voted to cut the pay for the governor and legislators by 23% during the last four years, citing the state's budget problems.

Stites said he will abide by whatever the legal opinion says. “If they want to make a push to bump me out I'm not going to get in a big fight about it,” he said.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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