Who are the highest paid SLO County employees?

January 21, 2016

slo county signBy JOSH FRIEDMAN

San Luis Obispo County employees averaged slightly more than $100,000 a year in total compensation for 2014, an examination of county employee pay shows. The county’s top earner was M. Daisy Ilano-Ramos, the medical director of County Mental Health. Ilano-Ramos received $409,647, according to Transparent California, a database of pay and retirement benefits.

Ilano-Ramos’ $231,948 salary was the county’s highest. Ilano-Ramos also received the second highest benefits package and the fourth most overtime pay. Ilano-Ramos received $83,516 in benefits and $40,029 in overtime pay.

Most managers generally do not receive overtime pay. Managers are exempt employees and are not required to be paid overtime, according to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Ilano-Ramos also got $54,154 in “other pay,” which can include bonuses, incentive pay and car allowances.

SLO County’s second highest earner was Janette Pell, the former director of the now-eliminated county general services agency. Pell received $323,180. Slightly more than half of Pell’s earnings are listed as “other pay.”

In August 2014, county administrators broke up the general services agency, moved employees into different departments and eliminated Pell’s position. It is not clear whether Pell received a severance package. She retired in October 2014.

Dan Buckshi

Dan Buckshi

The county’s former director of child support services, Philip Lowe, was the third highest earner. Lowe received $299,132 in total pay. Lowe retired in December 2014. He received $85,750 in “other pay.”

Dan Buckshi, the county’s chief executive, received $293,294 in total pay, placing him fourth among county workers. Buckshi earned less than San Luis Obispo City Manager Katie Lichtig. The city gave her $301,089 in total pay.

Ranking fifth among county workers, Sheriff Ian Parkinson received $277,441 in compensation. However, Parkinson also receives an annual pension from CalPERS, the state retirement system. The pension initially totaled $124,350.

Sheriff Ian Parkinson

Sheriff Ian Parkinson

Parkinson officially retired on July 26, 2014, CalPERS records state. Parkinson could have received more than $50,000 in pension payments for the last half of 2014.

If Parkinson collected the full pension in 2015 and his pay from the county remained the same, his combined earnings would have totaled $401,791.

Parkinson is now eligible for more than $400,000 in annual compensation, including benefits and pension payments.

Parkinson worked for the Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo police departments for more than 25 years before becoming sheriff in 2011. The county does not contribute to his current pension. SLO County has its own retirement system.

Only two other sheriff’s office employees received more than $200,000 in total pay. Undersheriff Tim Olivas received $201,633 in compensation, and Deputy John Penaflor, earned $200,528.

Penaflor received $74,226 in overtime pay, the highest total among county workers.

In comparison, 15 members of the San Luis Obispo Police department received more than $200,000 in 2014. Some SLO police officers received more pay than the sheriff’s second-in-command.

Employee compensation for SLO County Air Control District (APCD) workers is also included in the county’s staffing costs in the Transparent California database. APCD chief Larry Allen received $239,084 in total pay, the 10th highest compensation among county workers.

In 2013, Cambria Community Services District General Manager Jerry Gruber received $267,503 in total pay. Cambria CSD’s 2014 staffing costs are not listed in Transparent California so Gruber’s pay for 2014 was not included.

Full-time SLO County employees received an average compensation of $101,302, said Robert Fellner, the research director of Transparent California. Total compensation includes salary, overtime, benefits and other types of pay, like car allowances, meeting stipends, bonuses and paid leave.

In comparison, the average total compensation for employees of Santa Barbara County was $125,802, Fellner said. Monterey County employees received an average compensation of $103,508. Both Santa Barbara and Monterey counties have nearly 150,000 more residents than SLO County.

Santa Cruz and Marin counties have populations slightly smaller than SLO County. The average Marin County worker received $125,802 in total pay in 2014. The average compensation for Santa Cruz County was $111,583.

In the Central Valley, Kern County had an average of $115,090, Fresno County’s average was $87,518 and Merced County paid its workers an average of $97,224. Both Kern and Fresno counties have populations significantly higher than SLO County, while Merced County’s population is slightly smaller.

SLO County employed a total of 3,176 workers in 2014 at a cost of $251,518,499. The county had a ratio of one employee per 86 residents. Comparable counties had similar ratios.

A total of 25 SLO County employees received more than $200,000 in total pay. In comparison, in 2014, a total of 40 SLO city employees made more than $200,000.

County supervisors are paid significantly less than high-ranking employees, but they do receive more than the average worker in total compensation.

Adam Hill

Adam Hill

Each supervisor receives a salary of $82,014. But, the supervisors collect different amounts of additional pay and benefits.

Supervisor Adam Hill received the highest total pay among board members. Hill earned $133,884, which eclipsed Supervisor Bruce Gibson by just $20.

Gibson received slightly more in benefits than Hill did. They both collected more than $40,000 in benefits, which also placed them first and second among board members.

Then-supervisor Caren Ray received the lowest total pay and benefits among the five board members. Ray received $116,498 in total pay and $22,928 in benefits.

County employee unions are currently in labor negotiations with county administrators. The board of supervisors has approved compensation studies stating SLO County workers are underpaid compared to employees in other counties, so pay hikes are expected.


SLO County’s top 15 earners in 2014

1. M Daisy Ilano-Ramos, mental health medical director: $409,647

2. Janette Pell, then-general services director: $323,180*

3. Philip Lowe, then-child support services director: $299,132**

4. Dan Buckshi, county administrative officer: $293,294

5. Ian Parkinson, sheriff: $277,441

6. Penny Borenstein, public health officer: $275,810

7. Rita Neal, county counsel: $268,274

8. Gerry Shea, then-district attorney: $250,058***

9. Jeff Hamm, health agency director: $246,445

10. Larry Allen, air pollution control officer: $239,084

11. Jim Erb, auditor-controller: $237,714

12. Tom Bordonaro, assessor: $237,514

13. Lee Collins, social services director: $235,439:

14. Tim McNulty, assistant county counsel: $224,149

15. Dan Dow, then-deputy district attorney/district attorney: $219,541

Note: Pension payments are not included in the total compensation figures. Janette Pell, Philip Lowe and Gerry Shea each retired in 2014. Estimated pension benefits based on annual pension amounts and date of retirement are listed below. Sheriff Ian Parkinson is also eligible for a pension, but through CalPERS, not the county pension system.

* Pell retired on Oct. 1, 2014. She could have received about $13,000 in pension payments.

** Lowe retired on Dec. 20, 2014. He could have received about $4,000 in pension payments.

*** Shea retired on Nov. 7, 2014. He could have received more than $25,000 in pension payments.


Supervisors’ total compensation

1. Adam Hill: $133,884

2. Bruce Gibson: $133,684

3. Frank Mecham: $132,016

4. Debbie Arnold: $126,378

5. Caren Ray: $116,498


Supervisors’ benefits

1. Bruce Gibson: $40,879

2. Adam Hill: $40,277

3. Frank Mecham: $34,147

4. Debbie Arnold: $27,894

5. Caren Ray: $22,928

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And now SLO has one of those best and brightest supposedly lower level pay people, I hear a bus driver crashed SLO’s fancy double decker bus into the train bridge at Cal Poly. I guess the signs indicating the bridge height and that warning device that hangs down before the bridge basically saying ” If you don’t clear this you are not going to clear the upcoming bridge” wasn’t enough. Let me guess the driver won’t suffer any real consequences from damaging city property?


Those bus drivers make like $15 an hour driving people making bomb threats around one way streets all day. No thanks. Uber drivers probably make more money. Pepsi drivers make more. I am sure 27-33k a year (their salary range online) doesn’t inspire the recruitment of the best and brightest.

I have a feeling it was probably a driver not used to that bus, or that route, or that bridge.


They could hire highly educated nurses who are responsible for administering billions of drugs a year, that when nurses mess up cost hundreds of thousands of lives a year.


How come no stats on Cal Fire?


How about Pismo Beach? Jim Lewis who spent 35 days last year on working vacations????

Rich in MB

Vote for the same….get the same….what’s the mystery here?