The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted substantial merit pay raises to top executives Tuesday after a fierce debate that reflected a growing division within county government.
The salary increases, totaling $174,501 a year, will give pay raises to 24 department heads ranging from 3% to 12.9%, and an even bigger raise to Chief Administrative Officer Richard Dixon.
But the board rejected an unusual benefit for themselves and for the executives. It was a $350-a-month allowance for “professional development” that would have been exempt from audit or most other controls. Backers said it would be used by supervisors and county executives for attending out-of-town seminars or buying personal computers and books.
Attacked by Schabarum
The allowance had appeared destined for approval until Supervisor Pete Schabarum attacked it, warning his colleagues to remember how intense public opposition killed a pay raise for members of Congress and federal officials last month.
The proposal for the special allowance, he said, “does great violation to the credibility of the board, and I say shame on you if you pass it.”
Schabarum centered his assault on the county’s top appointed official, Dixon, and on his board colleagues, whom he accused of working with Dixon in secret to approve the professional development allowance.
Dixon is the top official in the county bureaucracy, with day-to-day responsibility for overseeing a huge county government that does everything from repairing roads and building flood control dams to caring for abused children.
Schabarum voted against a pay raise for Dixon. The increase, boosting his salary from $112,000 to $135,355 a year, was approved 3 to 1 anyway. Schabarum accused Dixon of “conflict of interest” in advocating the professional benefit allowance, which Dixon would have received.
And finally Schabarum persuaded the board to hold an executive session next week so he can present his grievances in private.
Schabarum’s opposition is important. Dixon needs three out of the five supervisorial votes to keep his job. There is no indication of wavering from the other four--Deane Dana, Mike Antonovich, Kenneth Hahn and Ed Edelman. But over the years, Schabarum has repeatedly shown that he pursues his goals with an intensity often not equaled by his colleagues. It would be difficult for Dixon if the supervisor continues his attack.
After the meeting, Dixon went up to Schabarum, near the dais, and talked to him quietly. Following their conversation, Dixon told a reporter, “I think it is my duty to serve each one (of the supervisors) to the best of my ability. I believe I have . . . quite clearly, it is my duty to get along with them.”
Schabarum charged that Dixon worked with more friendly board members to try to push the development allowance through. “No matter how you slice it, that deal was something he did not want to share with all members of the board,” he said.
Schabarum also voted against a pay raise for County Counsel DeWitt Clinton, who works closely with Dixon. But the raise was approved by a 3-1 vote, boosting his salary from $99,410 to $110,000.
Surviving the assault was a $350-a-month professional development allowance for municipal court judges and commissioners. Supervisors said they had to support that because it was part of a previous agreement between them and the judges.