Compensation for county officials released

RIVERSIDE – The top 10 highest paid officials in Riverside County government last year were mainly in healthcare, though several county executives also made the list, according to data published Tuesday by the California State Controller’s Office.

State Controller Betty Yee released the 2016 “Government Compensation in California” report to show how taxpayer funds were spent, and who was receiving what for being on the public payroll.

The data, available here, shows that the largest composite salary in the Riverside County region in 2016—$539,603—went to the chief engineer and manager of the Flood Control & Water Conservation District. That amount included base pay, “lump sum” distributions, such as for unused vacation time, per diem allowances and possibly retirement payouts, according to the controller’s office.

Jason Uhley was appointed to the position in May of last year, following the retirement of Warren “Dusty” Williams. County Executive Officer Ray Smith told City News Service that the sum likely represents a combination of final payments to Williams and most of Uhley’s annual pay.

A chief deputy sheriff, unnamed, took in $505,520 in total compensation—72 percent more than Sheriff Stan Sniff, whose total county income was $294,520. In fact, Sniff’s aggregate pay was also topped by two sheriff’s lieutenants and a captain, though it was unclear whether their compensation included early retirement packages.

In government speak, when the subordinate makes more than the superior, it’s called “compaction.” The Riverside County Board of Supervisors in 2014 hiked Sniff’s salary in an attempt to fix the disparity.

Three staff psychiatrists at the Department of Mental Health were just behind the chief deputy sheriff, taking in an average $407,000 in 2016. The mental health specialists were making sizable sums from overtime pay, data showed.

Riverside University Health System’s chief medical officer, Dr. Arnold Tabuenca, received $384,126 in total compensation, making him the sixth-highest paid official in county government.

CEO Jay Orr was the seventh at $383,127, followed by Riverside University Health System Director Zareh Sarrafian at $370,350, according to the report.

Two other staff psychiatrists rounded out the top 10, one taking in $363,449 last year, and the other $351,213.

The controller’s website indicated the average pay for a county employee last year was $62,790. The county employs just under 20,000 people, and roughly $1.56 billion in total wages were paid in 2016.

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