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San Juan County Salary Commission votes to cut sheriff’s pay, increase prosecutor’s
The San Juan County Citizens’ Salary Commission voted Thursday to reduce the sheriff’s salary by more than $10,000 and increase the salary for the county prosecutor by $5,000 per year.
The commission responded to studies analyzing cost-of-living figures and comparative salaries for elected officials around the state. The study showed that the county sheriff’s $97,520 compensation is in the mid-range among Washington counties, but relatively high among counties with similar populations. The study also noted that the sheriff’s salary, which is has been set at 2 percent above the undersheriff’s salary, is 16 percent higher than the highest-paid sergeant.
In adopting the lower salary, the commission stated that it should be adjusted annually to ensure that it is at least 4 percent above the highest base pay in the department’s sergeant classification, or a minimum of $87,000 per year.
Sheriff Bill Cumming, who has announced he does not plan to run for a seventh term, was attending a conference on the mainland Thursday and not available to attend the meeting.
However, Prosecutor Randall Gaylord did attend the session to plead his case for a salary increase for the county prosecutor. He argued that the county should match the state’s contribution to the prosecutor’s salary so that the total annual income is equivalent to that of a Superior Court judge.
The dollar-for-dollar county match of the state’s contribution was a legal requirement until the state law was changed in 2008. Currently the state pays $74,415 annually toward the San Juan County prosecutor’s salary, while the county’s 2010 contribution is $55,516.
The state pays San Juan County’s Superior Court judge $148,824 per year, roughly $18,900 more than Gaylord’s total annual compensation as prosecutor.
After some debate, the commission approved a $5,000 increase in the county’s portion of the prosecutor’s pay in 2011 and promised to review the prosecutor’s salary annually.
Both the county prosecutor and sheriff’s positions are up for election this year, so there was a need to set the salaries before filing deadlines for the office in June. Gaylord is running for reelection. The candidates for sheriff as of this writing, all from within the department, are Lead Detective Brent Johnson, who also chairs the county's Veterans Advisory Committee; Deputy Felix Menjivar, who is also a Friday Harbor Town Council member; and Deputy Rob Nou of Lopez Island, former police chief of Burns, Ore.
The commission’s agenda also scheduled time to consider whether mid-year salary revisions might be in order for the county’s other elected officials: assessor, auditor, clerk, County Council members, and treasurer. The Commission decided, with little discussion, not to make immediate adjustments and to consider the issue at its next meeting in December.
The 10-member Citizens Salary Commission has the responsibility under state law — RCW 36.17.024 — and the County Charter to review and set the salaries of San Juan County’s elected officials.