After weeks of haggling and confusion, San Diego County supervisors voted Tuesday to pay for the staff expansion that their top administrator says is necessary to manage the county more efficiently, as demanded by the board and voters.
The board voted, 4-0, with George Bailey absent, to pay for eight new staff members they had earlier approved in principle to help Chief Administrative Officer Clifford Graves implement Proposition A and other changes in county policy ordered last month by the board. Graves now has 20 people on his staff.
In the process, Graves managed to whittle the cost of implementing Proposition A to $143,000 a year from the more than $400,000 that had been associated with the plan when Graves unveiled it just a few weeks ago.
The greater amount still will be spent, but Graves has modified his explanation of the proposal so that fewer costs are attributed directly to the changes mandated by Proposition A, approved by voters in November.
That measure changed the way the county is managed on a day-to-day basis by prohibiting board members from dealing directly with the heads of county departments and instead requiring them, in most cases, to go through Graves.
On top of those changes, the board last month adopted a new way of handling its weekly agenda, requiring all department directors to submit items through Graves and directing Graves to send the board a report on each item that appears on the agenda.
Finally, the board voted recently to rejoin the San Diego Assn. of Governments, a regional planning agency, and Graves had said that he would need two new staff members to handle that increased workload.
The confusion arose when Graves presented, and the board approved, the entire package Jan. 15 without public discussion. But the $400,000 price tag was quickly associated with Proposition A, prompting an outcry from several interested parties.
Graves and Supervisor Leon Williams, chairman of the board, then announced that approval had been granted only in principle and that the package would be reviewed in public a week later.
On Jan. 22, Graves' request was approved again, but not before the two positions related to Sandag were separated from the rest of the proposal. In addition, the money to pay Graves' new employees was withheld, and he was told to return with a more detailed explanation of how each employee would be used.
That he did Tuesday, when the entire package was approved for a third time. This time, the money to fund the changes was included, and only $143,000 of it was said to be related to Proposition A; the rest was attributed to the other policy changes approved by the board.