San Luis County Counsel seeking 20 percent pay raise

August 10, 2020


Less then one week after San Luis Obispo County administrators announced plans to eliminate 28 full-time positions because of a $26.3 million budget shortfall, the Board of Supervisors is set to approve a 21.38 percent increase in compensation for County Counsel Rita Neal from her previous contract.

On the consent agenda, county staff recommends a four-year contract extension for Neal, with an increase in salary and benefits of $66,000. The Board of Supervisors have already budgeted for Neal’s proposed raise in compensation, as well as the 28 positions they plan to eliminate.

The job cuts are being considered as part of $26.3 million in budget cuts due to a loss of revenue because of the coronavirus.

Neal, who has worked as County Counsel since 2012, is eyeing an increase in compensation from a $204,152 salary and $104,434 benefit package to $234,811 and $139,768 respectively, for a total of $374,579 a year.

Neal is responsible for overseeing the SLO County Counsel’s Office which is comprised of 14 lawyers and eight staff members. Her office provides legal advice to the Board of Supervisors, 26 county departments, and multiple outside agencies

In comparison, U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna, the chief federal law enforcement officer for the Central District of California, oversees approximately 260 attorneys, and over 250 staff who serve over 19 million residents – half the state’s population. His salary without benefits is approximately $170,000.

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Neal should be ashamed of herself, if she had any honor or pride she would reject and increase in pay.

How could Ms. Neal be worth over $30,000.00 per month. No way she could make that kind of money in the private sector. Its time to terminate her contract and the county should be able to hire Mr, Hanna for half of what she wants.

She knows that, average attorney salary in the private sector in SLO county is $95,000 a year. Shew would actually have to work if she was in the private sector, and $30,000 a month is a very limited club in SLO county.

Silence is golden. And more money.


Well. Not really. It is SLO in the 21st Century. Corrupt leftist politicians doing what they do best.

Is there justification for this kind of salary? What is the compensation for like positions in other county, state and federal officers. With the recent budget shortfall due to the virus how can this be justified? There are and shortly will be requests for increased fees and taxes, the hard working population will hopefully still have a income to afford to pay these new taxes. This is not the kind of leadership that the citizens of our county expect or deserve.

What the h*ll kind of sense does this make?

TIme for a clean sweep!

Replace ALL spendthrift supervisors and department heads with a slate of candidates dedicated to high end wage and benefit reductions. A Contract with County Citizens, if you like. We are being fleeced.

County Counsel provides legal advice only. They do not defend the County in civil trials. If a lawsuit is filed County Counsel refers the case to outside counsel.

I would like to know how much the County has spent on outside counsel during Ms. Neal’s tenure.

If it as much as I suspect it is I would submit that perhaps County Counsel can do with a few less attorneys (they used to get by with seven) and Ms. Neal could be replaced by another attorney for less money.

Of course that won’t happened because Rita is part of the “in” crowd downtown.

Gordo is usually right on the money, but in this instance he is incorrect that the County Counsel’s Office only provides legal advice. County Counsel attorneys also represent the County’s Public Administrator and Public Guardian in court proceedings. A notable, high-profile example is the case of Phoebe Hearst Cooke (a granddaughter of William Hearst). The County was represented by Rita Neal.

I’m not disputing that they make appearances at court hearings on behalf of county departments. My point is that a great deal of money is spent utilizing law firms, several of them in Southern California, to defend the County in civil suits and in personnel actions before the civil service commission.

While I understand it may be cheaper to pay for outside counsel who practice in specialized areas, I think it makes no sense to pay Rita $200K per year for the work she does, let alone giving her a huge salary bump when the county is eliminating positions because of a budget deficit.

I know Rita and I like her, but this is ridiculous. The trade off in being a government lawyer is civil service protection, health insurance, a 457b account and a lifetime pension with an annual cola instead of a mid six figure salary and caviar and champagne every night…

I see now where my comment might be seen as a defense of Rita Neal, it wasn’t. I was attempting to convey that County Counsel is not limited to only giving advice.

I comment infrequently and usually only do so to clarify or correct someone’s error or misconception. You usually have very good insight in County Government and Politics.

Counties get sued a lot more than most people realize – and often for tremendous amounts of money. And the County can’t slough off everything as if it’s immune and just say go away. If she can win the big lawsuits and save the County millions of dollars then that big salary and benefits are worth it.

They settle 99% of the time period, this at best is an advisory position.

No, Absolutely not.

Do these elected officials have any idea what the Normal Citizens they represent are dealing and facing? Are they completely tone deaf to the current economic circumstances and struggles of so many in the community?

This is totally outrageous!

There should be pay CUTS not pay raises. It’s about time for the Peaceful Protests to turn their eye on our local elected leaders and start holding them accountable for this outrage.

Rich in Morro Bay

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