The last meeting of 2021 for the Nevada County Board of Supervisors (BOS) had members of the public wanting to recall all supervisors and some frank “Why and how I serve, no matter how you treat us” comments from three supervisors.

Tuesday’s meeting dealt with a contract for a new Public Health Officer, grants to improve wildfire safety, the final adoption of the new district boundaries, an economic impact study on the proposed Idaho-Maryland Mine Project in Nevada County, an authorization for Public Works to request bids for improvements of the McCourtney transfer station – among many routine items. However, public comment and an item adjusting the compensation of all Supervisors by a total of $5,616 for the fiscal year took center stage.

Members of the public present in the Board Chambers at first demanded the meeting be canceled or adjourned due to the weather. Supervisors declined to do so. After a lengthy comment period on the hiring of a new health officer, which passed by a unanimous vote, it was time for public comment for items not on the agenda.

Anyone can address the BOS “on items not appearing on the agenda that are of interest to the public and are within the subject matter jurisdiction of the Board” during public comment. Public comment can be made in person in the Chambers, via phone or ahead of time by emailing, using the comment system or writing a letter.

Recalling all supervisors

Four of the five Supervisors were served with notices informing them of a recall petition against them. The fifth notice, destined for Supervisor Hardy Bullock Chair Dan Miller [Editor’s note: It was Supervisor Bullock who was not served with the notice of intent, we apologize for the mistake], was held back by the speaker who wanted more people to see him hand the notice to the Supervisor. The process of recalling each supervisor entails the official filing of the notice, the collection of signatures to place each recall on the ballot (between 1,500-1800 signatures of registered voters per district,[Editor’s note Dec. 16, 2021: The number of signatures required is higher – 20% of registered voters per district upping the requirement to 2,600 to 3,200 signatures depending on the district ]) the verification of the signatures by the Elections Office and – if enough signatures are collected – a recall election. The recall petition guidelines are available on the Elections Office website. The proponents of the recall cited (in no particular order) mask mandates, lockdown periods, not reopening fast enough, not firing staff, vaccine requirements, voting to have Code Compliance use drones to inspect properties otherwise inaccessible.

Raising salaries for Supervisors

In the afternoon, four Supervisors (Dan Miller was absent for a medical appointment) took up an increase in their pay scale. The proposed increase would bring their pay to 40% of the other elected officials in the county – from the current $4,931/mo to $6,170 in the fiscal year 2023/24 (starting in July of 2023) via three increases over two years.

In 2007, the then-BOS requested a Grand Jury report to analyze, and make recommendations regarding BOS’s salary. In 2008 the Grand Jury report was delivered. The report recommended basing BOS salaries on the proximity performance method, using comparisons with counties that match Nevada County. The Grand Jury concluded there always would be opposition to a pay raise, but salaries for Nevada County supervisors were noticeably lower.

The 2008 BOS (Beason, Horne, Spencer, Weston, Owens) decided not to adopt the Grand Jury’s methodology and passed on codifying their salary with the new method, thus avoiding the predicted wrath of some constituents.

In 2018, Human Resources surveyed Board of Supervisors’ salaries across eight counties (Butte, El Dorado, Mendocino, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo, and Yuba) and found that Nevada County Supervisors’ salaries were 21% below average. As a result, Board salaries were increased modestly. In 2021, an updated HR survey found that the Board’s salaries were still 25% below average.

In Tuesday’s presentation HR recommended the Board’s salaries “be benchmarked to 40% of the average salary of other Nevada County Elected Officials (Auditor-Controller, Tax Collector, District Attorney, Sheriff, Clerk-Recorder, and Assessor) to achieve and maintain market equity.”

Public comment on pay raise

The public, of course, had their say on the item. Some of the same people wanting to recall all supervisors were first to express their opposition. (Strong language warning)

One of the speakers on the call-in line was 2008 BOS Chair Ted Owens. He recounted the missed opportunity and expressed regret for not implementing the Grand Jury’s recommendation. Then, he encouraged the current supervisors to adopt the ordinance prepared by staff.

Supervisors comment

The discussion returned to the BOS and the Clerk of the Board read a statement by Chair Miller expressing his support for the ordinance. Three supervisors (Bullock, Hall and Hoek) chose to share some of their thoughts on why they would vote in favor of the raise – and why they serve Nevada County residents. Their candid comments are below.

The BOS voted 4-0 (Miller absent) in favor of the ordinance.