While trying to overcome the constant loss of correctional and law enforcement officers at the Sheriff’s Department to other agencies, as a result of income disparity, the board may have created a similar problem at the District Attorney’s Office.
One of the local union representatives said the contracts approved at the last board meeting compresses the incomes of employees with historically higher degrees of education, training, and positions of authority. As a result, the District Attorney’s Office is in jeopardy of losing its two experienced investigators, who are now looking for employment elsewhere.
“They feel like they’ve been demoted,” said Chief Investigator Dave Salm, the longest-serving sworn law enforcement officer in Colusa County.
Salm, who started out as a correctional officer 25 years ago in Colusa County, received a promotion from deputy sheriff, with the salary to match, when he became a DA investigator. He also understands how demoralizing and demotivating income compression and income inversion can be when it occurs over time or is allowed to continue, just to retain individuals in another department.
Salm, who is president of the Colusa County Management Coalition, told the board during the period of public comment at their regular meeting on Tuesday, that he is one of nine Colusa County law enforcement officers who effectively took a net salary loss, following this last painful round of negotiations, once the increased employee retirement contributions given to classic safety members were factored in.
Additionally, two of the county’s represented groups, the Deputy Sheriff’s Association and the 32-member Management Coalition (assistant sheriff, lieutenant, veterans services officer) learned at the board’s April 21 meeting that they were being punished for a lengthy negotiating process, fraught with delays that were not of their making, when the board approved their contracts retroactive to Jan. 1.
Only the unrepresented employees (county administrative officer, county counsel, deputy county council) had contracts retroactive to Oct. 1, 2019, which had been submitted to the board for approval by County Administrative Officer Wendy Tyler.
“CAO Tyler made the statement while representing the unrepresented group that they didn’t feel they should be penalized for those that are taking so long to finalize,” Salm said.
Salm said the management coalition attempted to start negotiating contracts in March 2019, but the replacement of the county’s negotiators, the termination of the county’s Human Resource Officer, and other factors, such as supervisor availability, led to the delays.
Ultimately, both groups felt pressured to settle inequitable contracts upon the emergence of COVID-19, after the county’s negotiator said a declared emergency or “Change of Circumstance” could usurp the process entirely, Salm said.
Salm believes the new contracts resulted in inequities that lead to compression and inversion, which would then create a widespread revolving-door problem, which typically only exists with correctional staff and deputy sheriffs.
District Attorney Matthew Beauchamp said the potential loss of two seasoned investigators, due to salary compression, would have a devastating effect on the ability of his office to solve and prosecute high level crimes in Colusa County, including murder, which has steadily been on the rise.
“The Colusa County DA Investigators are not only highly educated and highly trained law enforcement professionals, in many instances they are the only law enforcement officers in the county trained to enforce a particular and specialized area of the law,” Beauchamp said, in a letter last week to the Board of Supervisors.
The two investigators looking for employment elsewhere have bachelor’s degrees, have extensive forensic training, and are the only law enforcement officers in the county and available to the cities in extracting computer and cellular evidence, as well as other areas of expertise.
“Colusa County is fortunate to have such a highly skilled and motivated investigative unit in its boundaries,” Beauchamp said. “DA investigators are a critical piece of the entire law enforcement fabric that protects this county. I’m proud to work with such a selfless group of consummate professionals.”
Because the matter was not on the agenda, the Board of Supervisors were legally unable to respond, but Salm said he hopes the board will reconsider the contracts to address overall morale among the members of two associations and the salary compression issue that was a result of delayed negotiations and pressure to settle.