One week after they unanimously gave themselves a 4% pay hike, Orange County supervisors voted Tuesday to forgo the raise, which had come under heavy fire.
The move came after a turbulent week and left some political observers suggesting that the board members should reconsider their approach to determining their own salaries. Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder, for instance, recommended that the board consider creating an independent salary commission that would decide whether raises are warranted for the five supervisors.
“I think there has to be a system that is beyond reproach,” Wieder said. “As long as we’re doing it, no matter what we do is damned.”
Her proposal won tentative support from some political observers, including local lawyer and political analyst Hugh Hewitt, who had defended the supervisors’ pay hikes. But while they and others were debating how to tackle the issue in future years, other officials said they were satisfied to have resolved the current debate.
“I’m pleased that this issue has been addressed and resolved in a way that is responsive to our constituents,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Gaddi H. Vasquez said after the vote.
Supervisor Roger R. Stanton, who had championed the move to roll back the increase, agreed.
“Sometimes the symbolism is important,” Stanton said. “This was an appropriate thing to do.”
The vote itself had been expected and came in anticlimactic fashion, as no supervisor opposed the motion. It passed after less than a minute of discussion.
No members of the public addressed the board on the pay hike, but the supervisors won praise afterward from some of the same residents who had angrily criticized them last week for accepting the increase during economic hard times and county government layoffs.
Tuesday’s session came after an unusual several days, during which the supervisors first defended and approved the increase and then, led by Stanton and Vasquez, moved to rescind it.
Their colleagues quickly fell in line, though some did so reluctantly. Supervisor Thomas F. Riley, for instance, complained that he was not fully consulted by Stanton and Vasquez before they announced their intention to roll back the increase.
Riley and other officials also suggested that Stanton and Vasquez pushed the proposal because they face reelection next year and are considered likely candidates for higher office in the near future.
Wieder laughed Tuesday when asked whether it was significant that the two board members who are up for reelection are the same two who pressed for the raise rollback.
“You don’t want me to comment on the obvious,” she said.
Some political observers have criticized the about-face, and the Democratic Party of Orange County released a resolution Tuesday chiding the supervisors, all Republicans, for refusing the raise “only after intense public pressure with no indication that they understand the necessity of changing the priorities and the process.”
But other opponents of the raise said they are satisfied.
“We commend them for listening,” said Ray Harbour, a spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Action Network, a group that had protested last week against the raises. “We think they took the correct action.”
While many of the opponents who objected to the pay raise last week criticized the board members for what they characterized as inadequate public notice, the board did not alter its format for this week’s vote.
Some members of the audience said they were worried because the pay raise item was not listed on a meeting agenda that was printed last week, before Stanton and Vasquez moved to rescind the raise.