Johnson County to give elected officials pay raise

Sheriff will get biggest salary bump; Rettig calls decision 'outrageous'

Gregg Hennigan
Published: February 4 2014 | 11:17 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:08 am in

The Johnson County sheriff will get a higher raise than other elected officials next fiscal year, but it will come at the expense of a proposed new position in his office.

A majority of the Board of Supervisors said at a Tuesday work session they would accept a recommendation to raise the salaries of the county’s 10 elected officials by 3 percent in the year starting July 1, plus an extra $5,000 bump for the sheriff.

“I think it’s outrageous,” Supervisor Janelle Rettig said of that and other recent salary increases for the sheriff.

The other three supervisors present, with Pat Harney out of town on a legislative trip, disagreed with her, however.

Rettig had expressed a desire to give no one a raise if the sheriff got a bigger one. Supervisor Rod Sullivan said he was not thrilled with the recommendation from the county's Compensation Board but was thinking of the eleven deputies in the offices of the auditor, recorder, sheriff and treasurer, whose salaries by state law are tied to their bosses’.

“I don’t think that punishing that person is fair, frankly,” he said.

The county is putting the finishing touches on its fiscal year 2015 budget and had a placeholder of 2.25 percent for salary increases for the county attorney, auditor, recorder, sheriff, treasurer and the five county supervisors. That’s the same amount many bargaining unit employees are to receive.

The salary proposal for the elected officials and their deputies adds $27,635 to the budget proposal. To make up for that money, the supervisors agreed to cut a new property evidence technician position Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek wanted to add next fiscal year at a cost of about $25,000.

Pulkrabek said after the meeting the amount of evidence the Sheriff’s Office receives is increasing and he has three supervisors share those duties. He wanted to give it to a non-sworn staff person who would make less money.

“So it’s a setback,” he said.

The salary issue came to a head Tuesday following last week’s recommendation by the Compensation Board for the 3 percent pay increase for elected officials and the extra amount for the sheriff. The Compensation Board is a volunteer body established by Iowa law.

Board members were persuaded by Pulkrabek’s argument that the salaries of his command staff are too close to each other and to sheriff’s deputies. He said some people turn down promotions because the pay is not worth the increased responsibilities.

Rettig was not having any of that, however. She noted the county gave the sheriff a larger raise two years ago because of this issue. If the new salary takes effect, it would be about a 19 percent increase over three years, compared with 7.5 percent for union employees in the Sheriff’s Office, whom she repeatedly referred to as “working people.”

“I find that unconscionable,” she said.

Bargaining unit employees in the county are eligible for merit or longevity pay on top of their salary increases.

Rettig also said the sheriff’s higher raise was an insult to the other elected officials and their deputies.

County Recorder Kim Painter disagreed and said she believed the Compensation Board was doing its best to resolve a salary problem in the Sheriff’s Office.

“Certainly I don’t see it personally as a slap in the face to myself, or my performance over the last year, or the performance of my deputies,” she said.

No formal action was taken at Tuesday’s meeting. The supervisors plan to vote on the fiscal 2015 budget in early March.

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