Consolidation triggers Sheriff’s pay increase

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – The Board of Supervisors has approved a salary increase for county Sheriff Mike Downey to compensate for extra work he has taken on as coroner/public administrator.

In approving the salary hike, supervisors have acknowledged that consolidation of the Sheriff’s and Coroner’s offices may not save money but is leading to improved efficiency

Sheriff Mike Downey

Sheriff Mike Downey

and reduced overtime.

Downey’s 10 percent salary increase amounts to $1,242 a month. Annually, with benefits, the increase is $19,569

The salary change was pulled from the consent agenda of the March 10 Board of Supervisors meeting by Board Chair Estelle Fennell, who said she did so “at the request of a constituent.”

Supervisor Rex Bohn said the increased compensation is justified and he noted that the salary change is recommended by both the county administrative officer and personnel director.

He added that Downey’s annual pay will be aligned with sheriff/coroners in nearby counties. “I think we’re in the ballpark on this,” Bohn said.

The consolidation was effective Feb. 1 and to support it, the board approved a budget allocation for an additional deputy sheriff. A deputy sergeant has been assigned as chief deputy coroner.

The county is saving $8,715 a month with the elimination of the coroner/public administrator position and according to a written staff report, there are cost savings even with the sheriff’s pay increase.

But Supervisor Virginia Bass described the consolidation as “an experiment” and acknowledged that over time, it might not yield cost savings. Its potential to improve services makes it worthwhile, she added.

Asked by supervisors to comment, Downey said the consolidation allows the resources of his office to bolster coroner/public administrator services.

“We have a reduction of overtime, a reduction of workloads on the staff and much more transparency,” he said, adding that use of his office’s systems has led to “better tracking of property and people and issues.”

Supervisor Ryan Sundberg said making funding adjustments to support the consolidation is far better than allowing the coroner’s office to struggle with inadequate resources.

“Without the sheriff’s willingness to take these extra duties on, this couldn’t have happened and we would have had a crisis eventually,” he continued. Supervisor Mark Lovelace said discussions leading up to the consolidation acknowledged that cost savings could be minimal. “The goal of this wasn’t to save money – rather the goal was capture some efficiencies,” he continued.

Supervisors unanimously voted to approve the sheriff’s salary increase.

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