County denies probation chief equal pay
The Board of Supervisors denied Chief Probation Officer Letha Martin’s request for more pay. However, after her recent six month review, County Administrative Officer John Ketelsen offered to increase her salary from step A to step C on the department head salary schedule.
The base salary for Range 30, step c for the department head salary schedule is $31.23 per hour. Martin was making $29.84 per hour.
She asked the board in October to reclassify her position from range 30 to 33 on the department head salary scale. The hourly salary for range 33 is $32.75 to $39.60.
“This is not a simple job and I took that knowing this is not a simple job,” Martin told the board.
She said it may have been her mistake to take a position while still negotiating the pay.
“However, I am the fifth chief in three years,” she said at the board’s Tuesday, Nov. 20 meeting. “There is no way I can do that to this department again by backing out and letting it fly for another four months.”
As assistant chief, Martin made $3,282 a month in gross wages, according to a chart she gave the board. When she was promoted to chief, her gross salary dropped to $2,177 a month.
With overtime, the juvenile hall superintendent makes $3,156.83 a month.
On Nov. 20, the board took no action on Martin’s request. At the same meeting, Ketelsen announced his intention to increase Martin’s pay rate from step A to step C.
“John has the authority to do that,” said District 1 Supervisor Bob Pyle.
“Actually I was surprised to see that today,” Martin said, “because when I met with Mr. Vossler and Mr. Ketelsen last week, they told me that if I came to the board that offer was not still available.”
Martin first brought up the inequity with Ketelsen and Vossler when she got the job in May. They denied her requests for salary reclassification and for pay equal to that of her predecessor.
Vossler and Ketelsen justified their initial denials by stating, “Because you are not an elected official, certain department heads have specialized degrees and you do not have the experience,” according to a letter Martin wrote to the board.
The letter asked, “If my degree is not appropriate for my position and I am not experienced, why would the county accept my employment application for chief probation officer?”
Her letter also pointed out the three previous chiefs were hired at a much higher rate of pay and asked why she was denied equal pay.
Vossler suggested the exact same increase when the board was looking for a chief probation officer in 1995, because only two qualified candidates applied after former Chief Probation Officer Debbie Rives submitted her resignation effective the end of December 2005.
Vossler told the board that was a comparison to chief probation officers in other counties. The county ended up hiring someone at Range 30 in 2005, he said, adding the final salary was based on the duties and responsibilities of the position.
Former Sheriff Ron Jarrell took over as Lassen County’s acting chief probation officer when the top probation job was vacant in December 2005. In February 2005, Jarrell told the board the quality of the CPO has to be the main issue in setting the salary.
He said probation is an important function of the criminal justice system. Jarrell said the CPO must be able to budget, administrate and strike a balance between the state-run court system and the county.
Jarrell said the county has a dedicated probation staff committed to youth and crime prevention. Due to their efforts, he said, in 2004, the county received half as many criminal complaints about those younger than 18 as it did in 2000.
“The juveniles in this county benefit,” Jarrell said. “In order to buy strong leadership, you need to compensate fairly.”
In early 2005, the board tried to get the state courts to contribute to the chief probation officer’s salary.
District 3 Supervisor Lloyd Keefer met with Lassen County Superior Court Presiding Judge Stephen Bradbury and proposed the county pay to range 30 and the court pay the remaining three steps. Bradbury “made it clear that the courts weren’t going to be participating in the funding,” according to District 2 Supervisor Jim Chapman.
Saying Lassen County’s probation officers are the lowest paid in the state of California, the anonymous letter writer state “I guess we know where they stand in the eyes of the Lassen County administrators.”
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