Santa Barbara County seeking community discounts for their employees

January 20, 2021


After asking business owners to offer discounts to Santa Barbara County’s 4,600 employees, county staffers apologized for their “ill-conceived, ill-judged and poorly timed” request.

In early January, Elizabeth Muro, the county’s health wellness partner, sent out a shiny brochure promoting the Employee Discount Program. Photos on the brochure include a hamburger, a person getting a massage and a group of unmasked people working out at a gym.

“The County of Santa Barbara Human Resources Department would like to partner with you by offering discounts to our 4,600 employees across the county,” the brochure says.

Rene Kaerskov, the owner of the Copenhagen House, a jewelry, design and watch store in Solvang, quickly rejected the county’s offer.

“We are already so beaten up by COVID-19 and county closures, that government employees squeezing more discounts out of us is a stretch,” Kaerskov wrote in his Jan. 7 reply. “Yesterday, our total sales amounted to $171 for six transactions. The streets are empty here in Solvang. The ‘For Lease’ signs are going up around us.

“Our employees sent home by the county and the government pay full prices for everything they buy, including groceries. That includes the unemployed, those with pay cuts and those on furlough.”

“So NO, we cannot partner with the county and give your 4,600 county employees discounts. I will preserve that for our own employees and for people without jobs.

“However, I will say this – if you can offer an employee discount to all our employees for their county/city sales tax and property tax, I am open to discuss.”

A week later, the county sent an email apologizing for their employee discount request, while noting the intention was to promote diverse local merchants.

“The communication was ill-conceived, ill-judged and poorly timed,” wrote Maria Elena De Guevara, Santa Barbara County Director of Human Resources. “Truly tone-death and there’s no excuse. For that, I apologize and take full responsibility. The email completely disregarded the very real pain and sacrifices local businesses such as yours are experiencing every day during the pandemic.”

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Partner as a verb means to associate with others as a contributor of capital sharing risks and profits. Not seeing anything like that definition here. More of a serf/overseer relationship. Businesses do all the work, and the County only reaps benefits in the form of essentially additional unfunded income for their already way overpaid employees.

I was so flabbergasted at this irrational proposal, at first, I couldn’t even formulate a response. Then I realized that this is what we can expect more of in the future. Tricky ways for the government to pass the cost of their bloated and for the most part ineffective operations to people without appearing to raise taxes.

When I was in business years ago, we had what we called a “government discount”. But this was just a euphemism because it was a negative discount. We charged government and quasigovernment agencies more than we charged our private sector clients. It is very common, probably universal, for contractors to bid much higher on government projects, and not just because of the prevailing wage restrictions, but because it is always a pain in the assets simply to deal with such agencies. Even if something took no more time to complete, it was not enjoyable work having contact with persons like those who would think this partnering plan is a good idea.

pretty sure the SBC employees have been employed during Covid.. so why do they need a discount. Stupid period

“I’m from the government and I’m here to help!”

This has to be one of the funniest things I ever read! Thank you CCN! The same County that shut down your small business then comes to you looking for discounts for people you haven’t lost a cent in all this! The only surprising thing is that Heidi Harmon didn’t think of it first!

This is scary on so many levels. An apology doesn’t touch it. The HR person clearly has no concept of public service, but rather, very adeptly demonstrates our local government mentality, abetted by HR practices, that constituents exist to serve the needs of the constituents’ servants! This request comes far too close to the historical Kansas City machine boss practice of requiring employees to tithe to the machine political party except in this case the public must tithe not just to the county machine in the form of taxes but also to those who operate the machine. Calling it unethical is too kind. HR should resign or be downgraded and retrained.

Ha LOL …I almost threw myself on the floor laughing when I read the story title .I owned businesses for over 3 decades I’m sorry to say but my worst customers were city county and state employees ,it always seemed that my business owed these folks a cut rate price bare bottom line basically doing business with them at my loss .When I checked a few times on transparent California some were drawing 350k a year in pensions , it was an insult to do work for them at my cost .I also think that public employees are being paid extra hazard pay right now and their buddies can’t be punching their time card for freebie overtime …Yes there maybe some employees that were living beyond their means before the pandemic…Some may have to move north or east for more affordable living in the long run they would be much happier with less financial overload and a longer commute

I agree with the sentiments of these comments, this was an unbelievably dense and out of touch act by the county HR. But your comment about $350k pension, please, don’t think that is true. Did you mean $35k? If not, please be specific about a SB County employee pulling down a $350,000/year pension. I’d love to know about it.

So asking for discounts for government employees is now called “promoting diverse local merchants”? Leave it to the public servants to spin this to the point it makes the rest of us want to vomit. Ms De Guevara obviously doesn’t have enough real work to keep her busy, her hours should be cut.

That’s right. Continue to demonize government, just when we need it most.

Let’s pause for a second and wonder what the world would be like in the midst of a pandemic under libertarian rule. High density businesses would have stayed open, thus spreading the disease even further. Hospitals would only cater to those who could afford it—no medicare, medical, Obamacare, thus leaving the poor to die in the streets. Schools would have been opened, but only the for profit schools could afford PPE, plexiglass, etc. Public school teachers would have died at an alarming rate.

It’s quite true, however, that such a brutal universe would have eventually given us herd immunity. The penalty—several million dead.

This was obviously bad judgement, but they did apologize for the poor timing. Private business, too, often partners with local business for discounts (these businesses bolster their clientele through this process), so it’s not like this is something foreign to our lives.

Yea because your socialist utopia has handled the pandemic so well trash. Quit eating tide pods.

There are not enough tide pods to fix EDD. The DMV is lucky they came along. Fortunately CA’s mask mandate will be copied nationwide and save us from several million dead in the streets. At least CA is entertaining. Should be fun to see what happens with the gas-free vehicle mandate.

I think it’s more demonizing their actions, and greed, along with their lack of character and integrity amiss what the rest of the average person has to deal with each day. Most of them are already extremely overpaid, not mention their unfunded pension mandates and over compensated perks. That all desperately needs to be reigned in.

AS for healthcare, and particularly Obamacare, it has been a complete joke. I am covered by it. What a nightmare it has been. Three out of the four years on it, I have had to pay the IRS thousands of dollars because of the incompetence of the those who wrote and support it. Make no mistake about, it’s a f…..g tax!!!

The teachers union and other public unions have used this China virus as a political tool and wedge, while lying and increasing their fleecing of the hard working and more deserving taxpayer. No free pass or discounts for any of them.

You provide no proof that “public school teachers would have died at an alarming rate” when children (the implied spreaders) have not proven to be the cause of “alarming” numbers of deaths of ANYONE. Children in school does not equate to sending infected residents into senior residences.

You do realize that Florida is wide open and has better numbers than California right?

Hot damn…Rene Kaerskov is my new hero!

…makes me think it’s time for a new watch..

Maybe she should run for board of stupervisors