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County leaders cite low pay as reason for employee turnover

Debra Moore
Staff Writer

County employees continue to switch departments, resulting in more open positions.

During the July 1 meeting, the Plumas County supervisors approved hiring requests and listened to pay rate concerns.

Clerk-Recorder Kathy Williams received authorization to fill a deputy clerk/recorder position after an employee left her department for a job in human resources.

Environmental Health Director Jerry Sipe asked for authorization to add a new position to his department, that of an administrative assistant, and begin the hiring process.

Sipe successfully argued his need for additional help because of the increased workload to his department.

Supervisor Lori Simpson voted against granting the additional position because she wanted the board to consider the request during the county budget hearings in August.

Social Services Director Elliott Smart received approval to replace a social worker who took a position with a private social services agency in Sacramento.

The new employee must either have a master’s degree and some work experience or a bachelor’s degree and a lot of work experience.

When board chairman Jon Kennedy asked Smart if focusing on those with just a bachelor’s degree, rather than the higher degree, would help recruitment, Smart replied, “We would get more candidates if we pay more.”

That sentiment came up later in the meeting when the board approved a four-year contract extension for County Counsel Craig Settlemire.

District Attorney David Hollister, who has repeatedly pointed out the pay disparity between himself and the county counsel, spoke out again, telling the supervisors that the pay disparity is the highest in the state.

“His salary is fine; yours is too low,” Kennedy responded.

Plumas County pays its county counsel $168,000 and its district attorney $95,724, though Hollister earns $103,000 due to his longevity.

In discussing compensation, Hollister referred to bonuses that Settlemire had received, which drew a response from the county counsel.

“I take exception to the term bonus,” Settlemire said. “It’s more like a step increase that other employees receive.”

He explained that when he was hired in 2010 he had responded to a statewide advertisement that included a pay range, and based on his experience, he requested the high end of the pay scale. Rather than grant that pay immediately, Settlemire received a phased-in compensation package.

“I earned the pay that I received,” he said.

When he finished defending his own salary, Settlemire said, “The DA deserves to be paid more and other employees do as well.”

Hollister apologized for using the word bonus, and agreed with Settlemire that department heads and their employees should be paid more.

$100 discussion

Sheriff Greg Hagwood purchased a $100 plaque as a token of appreciation for a man who brought $400,000 worth of services to this county, but he had to get the supervisors’ approval to pay the bill.

Hagwood wanted to honor Butte County Sheriff Jerry Smith for his 37-year career in law enforcement and his contribution to Plumas County.

“During his career he has been instrumental in providing in excess of $400,000 worth of helicopter support to the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office,” Hagwood wrote in his request to the supervisors. “He has also provided personnel, training and equipment to our agency during numerous marijuana eradications saving tens of thousands of dollars to Plumas County.”

“Why didn’t you guys just chip in?” Kennedy asked Hagwood.

Hagwood said that he could have sought contributions, but this better reflected the spirit of the award in expressing the gratitude of the citizens of the county.

The board unanimously approved the request.

Why would a $100 plaque require a presentation before the Board of Supervisors?

According to Auditor Roberta Allen, the plaque “is not something that would be budgeted for and it’s not in our regular scope of payments,” so it needed to be presented to the board for approval.

More music for Belden

The supervisors approved two more music festivals for Belden — Stilldream, July 31 – Aug. 3, and The Funk, Aug. 15 – 16. The festivals are expected to attract 800 and 700 staff, talent and spectators, respectively.

Before the requests were approved, Supervisor Lori Simpson listed a host of concerns about the Belden music festivals in general, including changing the county’s own ordinance so that permits would be requested many months before the event, rather than the weeks that are required.

“I’ve always felt unsettled about approving these,” Simpson said, and mentioned potential problems including fire. “I feel like something serious could happen there.”

She turned to Ivan Coffman and said, “You’re the landowner; if something big happens, it’s a liability.”

Coffman said he was insured and said that wildfire could happen anywhere. He said that his venue is unique and is appreciated by the people who organize and attend the festivals.

After hearing from festival promoters that adequate medical services were going to be provided, the supervisors unanimously approved the request.

Website contract

The supervisors entered into a contract with Big Fish Creations of Graeagle for the county’s tourism website

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