Fresno County supervisors on Tuesday overruled the county’s retirement board by rejecting big raises for its top administrators.
The retirement board is required to seek supervisors’ approval for raises. The retirement board voted to raise administrator Donald Kendig’s annual salary from $150,000 to $200,000 because it’s well below those of peer administrators in other counties.
Eulalio Gomez, retirement board chairman, said Kendig’s work has been high-caliber since his arrival about a year ago.
Gomez said Kendig’s work is highly specialized. He works with 16,000 retirees and their $4 billion in accounts.
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He said finding a replacement for Kendig would be difficult because of the type of work he does.
“We want to keep him there,” Gomez said.
A survey by retirement board officials found other Valley counties paid salaries between $162,000 and $182,000 to their administrators.
Robert Dowell, retirement board member, said Kendig boosted staff morale and has handled the board and retirees with professionalism.
“The increase you’re considering is certainly substantial,” Dowell said. “The work Mr. Kendig has done for this county and for this board certainly should be recognized.”
Supervisors said their decision not to raise Kendig’s salary wasn’t personal, but that $50,000 is a large pay hike.
The increase you’re considering is certainly substantial. The work Mr. Kendig has done for this county and for this board certainly should be recognized.
Robert Dowell, Fresno County retirement board vice chair
“I just can’t look my constituents in the eyes and allow for such an extraordinary increase in one fell swoop after he’s been here a year,” Supervisor Andreas Borgeas said.
Supervisors said they’re willing to raise his salary and asked county personnel staff to work with the retirement board and Kendig to come to an agreement.
Vicki Crow, county treasurer-tax collector and an ex-officio member of the retirement board who didn’t vote on the raise, said Kendig definitely deserves it.
“I think $50,000 is a huge amount,” she said. “Not to disparage Don, I think he’s done an outstanding job; I think he is deserving of a raise in recognition of his stellar performance.”
But, she said, the amount is obviously too large for supervisors to support and the proposal should be “something more amenable to the board (supervisors) and something more reasonable the public would accept.”
Supervisor Henry R. Perea told Kendig: “I think you do fine work; that’s not the issue.”
Kendig said he was surprised by the retirement board’s recommended raise, but he said he wouldn’t use salary as a negotiating ploy.
“I would never threaten to leave because you said no to this,” he told supervisors.
I just can’t look my constituents in the eyes and allow for such an extraordinary increase in one fell swoop after he’s been here a year.
Andreas Borgeas, Fresno County supervisor
Supervisors also rejected raises for Kendig’s top administrators that would have brought their salaries more in line with those in other counties.
A proposed raise for his top assistant was about $14,000, for a new annual salary of $107,162. The retirement benefits manager’s salary was proposed to rise from $73,502 to $77,818. The board will consider raises for the employees but will continue to work on the terms.
Supervisors opposed letting Alan Weaver, public works and planning director, return to work later this month on a part-time basis for six months after his retirement, which becomes effective Friday.
The six-month period would have allowed the county to begin recruiting for Weaver’s position. The county charter requires that his replacement have state licenses as a surveyor and civil engineer. Finding people who, like Weaver, have those licenses is difficult. The county charter can only be changed by a vote of the people.
The board also asked Brandi Orth, the county’s election chief, to offer timelines for putting the charter change on the November ballot. It will cost the county about $40,000 to $60,000 to run an election.
Nobody else in Weaver’s department has both licenses. An interim director isn’t required to have both certifications.
“This is a very strange scenario to be in,” Borgeas said. It’s “unlike any other department I’ve ever seen where you have to have two separate state licenses … this is ridiculous.”
In other action, the board also voted to write a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown to seek reimbursement for the cost of holding an election to choose a successor to Assemblyman Henry T. Perea. Orth estimates that the election will cost about $500,000.
Supervisors also named Paul Nerland as the county’s personnel services director. He had been serving as interim director since Beth Bandy’s retirement last year.
Update: Robert Dowell is a member of the retirement board. An earlier version of this story reported incorrectly that he is vice chairman.