Wednesday, June 23, 2021

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Salary inequities create investigator shortage

Colusa County District Attorney Matthew Beauchamp warned the Colusa County Board of Supervisors in April what would happen if they valued his experienced investigators less than they valued basic law enforcement.

The warning came after county officials earlier this year bumped the salaries in the Colusa County Sheriff’s Department as a retention strategy to keep deputies, which resulted in compressing the salaries on positions once considered a law enforcement promotion.

The result was the loss of one experienced major crime investigator to another agency, and the inability for the District Attorney to recruit her replacement.

“I recognize that the county’s failure to compensate the most highly educated and more experienced investigators in the county would not only be seen as a slap in the face but also a demotion,” said Beauchamp, in an Oct. 19 letter to the board.

Beauchamp said he tried to head off the problem by alerting the board six months ago that DA investigators require significantly more education and law enforcement experience than patrol sergeants, which have higher salaries, and that recruitment and retention would be difficult if potential new hires for the investigator position would actually have to take a pay cut.

They would also earn more than county’s tenured investigator, which would create a severe moral problem, he said.

“It was obvious to me that the pool of qualified applicants that we normally recruit from would have no interest in applying for an underpaid position that in years past was always a career advancement,” he said. “The storm has arrived.”

Colusa County Chief Investigator, Dave Salm, president of the Management Coalition, also advised the county in April that the DA’s highly valued staff would look elsewhere for employment because of the salary inequities.

“It’s a classic case of not seeing the forest through the trees,” Salm said. “During negotiations, one of the county’s representatives stated the DA investigators would not get an in-kind raise comparable to the raises given to the Sheriff’s Department because there were no recruitment or retention problems at the District Attorney’s Office. Now we have both.”

While Salm congratulated Investigator Sara Martin on becoming the Colusa Police Department’s new lieutenant, he said her loss hit the county’s interests hard.

“We have lost one of the hardest working investigators I have ever met and we now have an inability to recruit for that position,” he said. “In addition to

losing all of the money spent on her training and losing all of the

valuable experience she has gained, we have also lost a substantial amount of grant funding that will follow her to her new job.”

Beauchamp has asked the Board of Supervisors for a 10 percent pay raise for his investigators, which would accomplish the county’s stated goal to be within 5 percent of the market median and put the investigators back on parity with a sheriff’s sergeant position.

“The above salary adjustment is only fair,” Beauchamp said. “I gently remind you that the requirements to apply for a sheriff’s sergeant position includes a high school diploma, a POST basic certificate, and four years of law enforcement experience. The DAI requirements are much more stringent. To become an (investigator), the minimum requirements are an Associate of Arts degree, a POST intermediate certificate, and two years journey level experience as a full time investigator or detective.”

Colusa County officials said Tuesday they were willing to look at the recruitment and retention issue in the District Attorney’s Office, but that the county would likely change the job description (requirements) to match the offered salary, rather than increase the salary.

As of Monday, there were two applicants for the open DA investigator position, said Interim HR Director David Prentiss.

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