Legislative assistants cost increase $500,000 under Gibson
March 23, 2013
OPINION By JULIE TACKER
In 2004, when Supervisor Debbie Arnold served as the legislative assistant to then District 5 Supervisor Mike Ryan, her salary was a respectable $3,905 a month.
Supervisor Bruce Gibson was elected in 2006 and hired Mrs. Cherie Aispuro as his legislative assistant (LA) away from the county clerk’s office. The duo took an office on the 4th floor of the new county government center in January 2007. Aispuro’s starting salary was the same as the other four LA’s — $4,113 per month, slightly over $200 a month above the LA’s of 2004.
After only six months on the job, when the fiscal year 2007/2008 budget was adopted in June, the LA position received a $796.00 monthly increase, or 19 percent. This was a collective $47,760 annual increase realized by all five of the supervisor’s assistants, including Aispuro, at taxpayers’ expense.
A year later, when the fiscal year 2008/2009 budget was adopted the LA position again received a sizable increase, this time for $832 per month, another 18 percent. Multiplied by five assistants, the county taxpayers incurred another $49,920 annually.
The two-year cumulative increase cost to the taxpayer is just under $100,000 per year. These sizable increases came in 2007 and 2008 when the economy was tanking and budget cutbacks were the norm. Only Gibson remains on the board since those hefty increases and the LA’s salary remains at $5,741 per month; the total cost is over $500,000 since Gibson and Aispuro took office.
To compound the problem, the “at will” legislative assistant has no job description on file. Nice work if you can get it. It is unclear what each LA does. One would think they field phone calls, book the supervisor’s calendar with meetings, dinner engagements, ribbon cuttings, photo op’s and occasionally government business, but apparently, like a private sector corporate secretary, these assistants also run personal errands. Taking the supervisor’s car to be serviced, dropping off and picking up dry cleaning, and in another supervisor’s case, walking dogs and using county resources to run his re-election campaign in 2012.
Contrary to what County Administrator Dan Buckshi and County Counsel Rita Neal have repeatedly said, “No county resources (i.e. public funds) were used,” the Gibson Aispuro affair has cost the taxpayers plenty to date and it is likely to escalate.
Some would have you believe the long-term Gibson and Aispuro affair is “much ado about nothing.” County staff, hired by and performance reviewed by the supervisors, have washed their hands of the matter suggesting we the public, who pay their salaries, “move along — nothing to see here.”
Note: Only fifteen years ago, there was just one assistant for all five of the supervisors to share.
Julie Tacker is a local activist who lives in Los Osos.