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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A suggested solution to excessively high pensions … a statewide problem …

1) A windfall gov’t pension tax, like a windfall profit tax, applying to all public retirees receiving benefits from political entities located in the State of California. This tax should be progressive, increasing in percentage as the retirement benefit increases. This would recapture a portion of these excessive benefits. This type of tax would not violate the pension contract, since the money would be paid to the retiree in full, and then taxed in what would be effectively a partial recapture paid to the State as a whole.

A suggested solution to excessive administrator, department head, and management/supervisor salaries …

2) elect REFORM SLATES to the board of supervisors, city councils, special districts and elected county department heads committed to specific salary reductions to managerial positions.

I think these ideas would gain voter approval.


The sad part is, every one of those over-paid positions have NO LIABILITY nor any RISK. Whatever happened to Risk VS. Reward?

I mean, we talk about LEO’s, CEO’s and Doctors, etc. making health six–figure salaries, but they often have everything at risk (liability) – what do most public employees have for liability, risk (heck, even accountability)? This is how the police (and sheriff) and fire departments abused their sacred cow status – the illusion they are “at risk” so often. Unless they’re in a VERY democrat-run urban area, it’s likely the risk isn’t as great as they’d like us to think. It is still there, of course, but just not six-figures there.

We, as voters and dutiful ostriches, still default to “WE WANT AN OUTSIDER… WITH POLITICAL EXPERIENCE” – lol. The minute an outsider comes in to try and change the status quo, well, they’re just not experienced enough! (Think Carson, Fiorina, Trump) – so we get “winners” like Sanders, Bush, Clinton and Obama. Yeah, awesome experience there!

Nope, let’s just keep hiring even more expensive “servants” who don’t actually do anything constructive, nor have any accountability let alone liability or risk. Then we can vote in more of the same and wonder why nothing ever changes and gets progressively worse each year.


I’m going to keep it real.

An old coworker of mine that works for the county as a nurse that goes to those homeless camps, under bridges, makes sure patients with tuberculosis takes their pills everyday so they don’t infect the public with disease made 75k this year, about 25k less than any hospital nurse and the benefits cost about 50% more.

A social worker with a master’s degree makes about 65k a year.

Yeah, they are ROLLIN’ in the dough. Better slash their pensions too; those pensions were the justification over all these years for the crappy pay.

Not every worker is making huge money. Some of these jobs are very draining- helping abused kids, sick people. But yeah, let’s post the salaries of upper management who get raises all the time and then punish those who do not. Awesome. Because ultimately that is what happens.


And some of those nurses take call all night for SART too. I wonder if they get all the perks that the District Attorney’s get…… Because they are NOT getting overtime pay…..


And their nurses ARE underpaid. They have nurses working there for 20 years making less than new graduate nurses with less experience and education. That is insulting. If the County wants to compete, they have to put out a compensation package that actually works. Who is going to a drug house as a nurse when you are told you are oh so safe when the probation officer and sheriff that goes with you gets extra pay because the homes they visit are dangerous?

Why would a nurse work at SLO county jail for 70k a year when they can work at ASH for 100k + or CMC 110k ++ however much OT they want to make??

Now I’m done.

Kaiser Bill

See my post in this thread.

The problem with government pensions is not the worker bees getting a $40K/ year pension.

The problem are those at the top who pad their top pay, often by working one or two years in a top position before retiring. Parkinson’s first Undersheriff, Martin Basti, only worked two years in that job but got a huge bump in his retirement pension.

So the reform does need to happen but with high salary workers.

No cop, bureaucrat, or prison guard should end up with a $150K pension for the rest of their life.


According to Transparent California, Basti retired in 2007…


He must have been in the DROP program when he was appointed Undersheriff…


Which means that his annual pension was fixed at the time of appointment.


In a few months, there will probably be a news story on greedy County employees wanting a raise. It is going to be those damned greedy nurses and social workers wanting a raise. It will also be sheriff’s and DA’s and everyone else.

I am just going to tell you all that the management has their OWN unions. I am going to tell you that people like Jeff Hamm get paid by the Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors give their own raises. Must be nice.

So, just remember this before you tar and feather people. Ask yourselves WHO wants a raise. Not everyone is greedy. Not everyone works overtime. Not everyone gets these golden parachute offers. Not everyone gets on the news with every awesome thing they do.

This issue infuriates me. The true public servants of this world are getting the shaft, I am telling you.


The people truly getting shafted are the taxpayers


Well, there are some jobs that are mandated to be done by law. Go change the law if you don’t like it. And when communicable diseases happen, we will just cross our fingers and hope that people will just do the right thing and come in and take their medications like they are supposed to for 9 months every single day, making sure they wear a mask and isolate themselves when infectious. And when outbreaks happen, we will just hope they will self contain, that people will not travel and stuff. We don’t want to be wasting no taxpayers’ money on no disease investigatin’. Nah, we’ll just wait for the rash to go away and starve the tapeworm out……..

Maybe those guys with those big phat salaries will do that work. I always wondered that they did all day long. Must be REALLY important, because if the people doing the work I just mentioned make only 70k, the ones making 250-270 must REALLY be special…… Right?????


The rape of the taxpayer continues


When one’s head is in the sand, the position may be misconstrued as provocative… just sayin’.


This is the best county in California. Why do we have to be so generous in our compensations to these people?

Isn’t it time we start ratcheting back executive pay and benefits?

Jorge Estrada

So it costs $4,036,722.00 to pay the first fifteen employees two years ago. What is the total for the additional three thousand or so employee? Just being a curious Jorge.


If you think this is bad, check out what the trial lawyers make. Screwing over all of society.


At least they have to work for it and perform well enough (lie) to get it. Public sector doesn’t have to work very hard, nor perform very well and they STILL will get raises and too much compensation.


In the clear skies of SLO County I have developed a hacking, nagging cough trying to inhale Larry Allen’s absurd APCD salary.


And people are perplexed at the popularity of Trump?

A shining example right here.

Take a look at the feds pay and bennies if you want to get really depressed. Have a nice weekend.