Contra Costa supervisors paid twice for vehicle costs

contra.costa.sealSome members of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors are facing sharp questions about their ethics and honesty over perceived double-dipping on car allowances, Dan Borenstein of the Bay Area News Group reports. At the behest of Supervisors Mary Piepho of Discovery Bay and Karen Mitchoff of Concord, the board has decided to continue collecting both …

… an auto allowance of $7,200 a year plus a mileage reimbursement for most trips at 57.5 cents a mile. … An independent committee that reviewed supervisors’ compensation found none of the other comparable counties it surveyed allowed such double-dipping. The committee recommended ending the mileage reimbursement except for travel out of county.


The committee’s position was buttressed by county calculations showing the auto allowance alone covers the costs of operating a car for county business, even for Piepho, the supervisor with the most mileage.


Nevertheless, supervisors decided to keep the auto allowance and mileage reimbursement for trips outside their own districts. In Piepho’s case, she will keep almost the entire mileage allowance.


Based on her 2014 travel expenses, 93 percent of her trips have been to destinations outside her district. So the board’s decision means that she will retain mileage reimbursement of about $4,400 a year. Under the committee’s recommendation, it would have been trimmed to about $1,580.

Board sparked furor with its big pay raise

This sort of controversy is nothing new to the 1.05 million residents of Contra Costa County, located due east of the Bay Area. Last October, supervisors faced a public backlash after voting themselves a big raise. This account is from the Contra Costa Times:

MARTINEZ — After giving most of their employees raises of about 4 percent in contract negotiations this year, Contra Costa supervisors Tuesday decided they deserved something more: a 33 percent hike, boosting their annual salaries to more than $129,000 a year.

By a 4-1 vote, the supervisor salaries will now be permanently tied to those of Superior Court judges, which is a common practice among county boards throughout the state and eliminates the need for the elected bodies to vote themselves an unpopular pay bump.


In Contra Costa, the salaries are now set at 70 percent of judicial salaries …


The Richmond Confidential website placed this pay scale in context:


“[The] new salary structure gives Contra Costa County’s board more money than the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties. It’s also higher than those of California state Senate and Assembly members, who make a base salary of about $90,000. …”

Backlash leads to reduction in salary boost

But after critics quickly rounded up 40,000 signatures opposing the pay hike, the supervisors voted in January to rescind the entire raise. Last month, they approved a plan in which their salaries would go up in phases by a total of 20 percent, to $116,840, with the final increase on Jan. 1, 2018.

piephoThe controversy could haunt the political futures of some of the supervisors, particularly Mary Piepho, the ambitious daughter of former state Sen. John Nejedly, who is now deceased. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson, who normally doesn’t pay much attention to Bay Area bedroom communities, lampooned Piepho in January for insisting that the $33,000 pay hike was a “salary adjustment,” not a raise.

But this ridicule didn’t stop Piepho from leading the push to have Contra Costa supervisors get both a flat vehicle reimbursement and a per-mile repayment.

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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