Johnson County board says sheriff should get bigger raise

One official argues salaries of supervisors too close to the staff they oversee

Gregg Hennigan
Published: January 30 2014 | 6:26 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:55 am in
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IOWA CITY – A Johnson County board believes elected officials in the county deserve a 3 percent salary increase – except for the sheriff. They think he should get even more.

The county’s Compensation Board voted 5-1 Thursday to recommend the 3 percent raise for the county attorney, auditor, recorder, sheriff, treasurer and the five county supervisors in the fiscal year that starts July 1. On a separate 5-1 vote, they said Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek should get an additional $5,000 increase.

The final decision on salaries rests with the county supervisors. By law, the supervisors can only accept the proposal as is or decrease it, although they can lower their own salaries independent of the other elected officials’ pay.

One supervisor, Janelle Rettig, told the Compensation Board members that it was unfair to single out one elected official so she would push for no salary increases for everyone.

“Because what you basically said to nine other people is ‘your work is not as valuable,’ ” she said.

Compensation Board members who supported the extra $5,000 for Pulkrabek said they were trying to address the “compression” of salaries among his command staff.

In his presentation to the board, Pulkrabek made an argument he has in years past, that the salaries of his supervisors are too close to the staff they oversee.

With a promotion comes more responsibility and pressure, but salaries do not increase accordingly, he said. He said just on Thursday a sheriff’s deputy said he may decline a promotion.

“The difficulty is there is not a lot of incentive for people to take promotions,” Pulkrabek said.

The salaries of his top two deputies by law cannot go above a certain percentage of his, so Pulkrabek’s pay affects theirs and, the argument goes, everyone down the line.

The county attorney, auditor, recorder and treasurer also have employees whose salaries are tied to theirs, and Rettig said compression is an issue for them, too.

Chad Andrews, who is the sheriff’s representative on the Compensation Board, cited the “significant discrepancy” in Pulkrabek’s salary of $108,725 and the police chiefs in Iowa City ($145,267) and Coralville ($120,660).

Pulkrabek is the third-highest paid sheriff in Iowa, according to information given to the Compensation Board. Johnson County is the state's fourth most populous county.

The current salaries for the other elected officials are $131,735 for County Attorney Janet Lyness, $80,021 for Auditor Travis Weipert, Treasurer Tom Kriz and Recorder Kim Painter and $55,028 for each supervisor.

Mike Weinard cast the lone “no” vote against the proposed 3 percent salary increase, instead calling for 2.25 percent. Joe Moreland voted against the extra pay for the sheriff, saying that would equal an 8 percent increase.

The county’s bargaining unit employees are set to receive salary increases ranging from 2 percent to 2.25 percent starting July 1. They also are eligible for additional merit or longevity pay.

Last year, the Compensation Board voted 5-2 to recommend 3 percent raises for elected officials, and the supervisors OK’d that figure.

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