Letter to the Editor: We finally have a response from the supervisors and it’s disappointing
After several attempts to get the Board of Supervisors attention it appears we finally have a response and what an extreme disappointment it is. While watching the BOS meeting this past Tuesday the Chairman Dwight Ceresola read a statement in response to Board criticism that has since been published by Plumas News. While I appreciate that the Board has finally broken their silence, their statement is riddled with inaccuracies from top to bottom and most importantly does not provide one solution to the current and continuing crisis the county is facing.
First the Board points out the dismal 3% growth rate of our county which should be a huge concern to the board and something the county needs to address. Over the years the Board of Supervisors have yet to come up with a solution to the stalled growth of our county. We must come up with ways to generate income or the county surely will fail. Maybe now that they have acknowledged this fact themselves they will come up with how they plan on improving the situation but I won’t hold my breath on that one.
Next the county and the HR department keeps bringing up the fact that they are now picking up 85% of CalPers Health Insurance premiums for all county employees. Premiums that saw such an extreme price increase this year that employees were facing several hundred dollar pay cuts that surely would have meant more county employees leaving their current positions if action was not taken. To be clear here this is and was not a pay raise for employees it simply avoided employees from taking a paycut. For the employees that do not take the county’s insurance they saw no change to their bottom line but they are saving the county thousands.
The statement by the Board has a clear and very defensive stance towards the Sheriff’s Office in particular. Perhaps that is because the Sheriff and several of their employees including myself have been vocal about the dire situation we are currently facing. The Board has gone so far as to spend taxpayer dollars on a private investigator just to find out information they already knew. They did so under the guise that they need to understand why employees are leaving in order to be successful in recruiting. The Board appears to be blaming bad leadership as the cause of people leaving and they therefore do not need to provide higher wages even though a good portion of the people contacted cited low pay as a reason for leaving. This tactic has been done in the past as a reason for not funding Public Safety in this county and it appears the Board is falling back on old practice. Allow me to enlighten the Board on something pretty simple. If you want to recruit people you first have to pay them a reasonable wage which is not the case right now. Furthermore, finding out why people have left the Sheriff’s Office is doing nothing to help fill the vacancies that were created when those people left. Bad leadership has everything to do with retention not recruitment. Until wages are addressed we will not attract anyone to come work these jobs. $18.98 for Dispatchers and Correctional Officers and $21.52 for Deputies is a laughable wage especially when neighboring counties are paying a lot more for these same positions. The county can not pretend that these wages are competitive or appropriate for what is being asked of these positions.
The statement then goes on to imply that the Sheriffs Office is not doing anything with the applicants they are receiving. This is a very complicated situation that the Board and HR has tried to skew in their favor and it needs to be addressed. For instance in one paragraph it says the Dispatch center had 6 applicants and then in another paragraph it states there were 13 (not sure which one is accurate). They also use the wording “qualified applicants” guess what the qualifications for a Dispatcher is? You simply need a valid ID and a high school diploma or GED. So basically anyone that turns in an application is qualified, however that is not the same number of applicants that return a phone call for an interview, it is not the same number of applicants that show the ability to do the job in an interview, and it is not the same number of people that can pass the background check that is required by P.O.S.T. and this is just in Dispatch which is what I have first hand knowledge of. If we are lucky we get maybe 1 or 2 applicants to show up to the interviews and if they get past that and can pass the background check it does not mean they will pass the very challenging and strenuous training process that is required to become a Dispatcher. The statement also fails to address the issue with HR taking months to schedule testing for these positions therefore taking months to contact the applicants. If you turned in an application for employment and didn’t hear back from anyone for 2 to 4 months wouldn’t you move on and find something else? Well that is what’s happening but I don’t think that is being factored into the numbers being presented.
The Board presented this statement as a way to set things straight but the only thing they did was point fingers and offer zero solutions. Public Safety is still in crisis mode in this county and blaming the current leadership isn’t doing anything to help put bodies in the seat. We need to be able to attract and hire quality candidates for these vital positions and I’m sorry these positions can’t be filled with any person off the street. It takes a very specific skill set to be a Dispatcher, it takes a special person who can handle the job of correctional officer and it takes a commitment unlike any other to put your life on the line to be a patrol deputy. These positions deserve to be properly compensated for.The Board needs to take action and pass immediate wage increases for these public safety positions. Quit wasting taxpayer time and money on frivolous investigations and do what you were elected to do which is to act in the best interests of this county. Until the Board decides to take action I encourage the public to remain critical and vigilant of what our elected officials are doing. We must make public safety a priority.