Riverside County Board of Supervisors say “No” to pay increases for Chad Bianco, Mike Hestrin and other elected officials.
Riverside County Board of Supervisors say “No” to pay increases for Chad Bianco, Mike Hestrin and other elected officials. Credit: Chris Allen, VOICE

S. E. Williams

I know it’s a cliche, but I have to ask, “Will wonders never cease?” 

Those were my initial thoughts when I learned the Riverside County Board of Supervisors had actually “turned down” proposed 12.7% pay raises for Sheriff Chad Bianco and District Attorney Mike Hestrin. 

And, as if the proposed raises for Bianco and Hestrin were not galling enough, the Board was also asked to consider 32% salary increases for Assessor/County Clerk/Recorder Peter Aldana, Auditor-Controller-elect Ben Benoit and Treasurer-Tax Collector Jennings. This, part of the same ask, was also denied. 

An astute observation

Board Supervisor Kevin Jeffries summed it up best when he astutely observed, “There’s nothing you’re gonna say that’s gonna convince me that an elected official, who knew what he or she was gonna get when they came into office, without even publicly asking for it, deserves a pay raise.” 

“Overall, most studies find that. . .  [high] pay alone does not necessarily improve the performance of politicians while in office, which is itself tricky to define, though it does give them a greater incentive to get reelected, which may influence them to work harder to maintain their position.”

Meg O’Connor

Four of the five supervisors aligned against the increases while Supervisor Karen Spiegel abstained. It seems a “no” vote took more courage than she could muster. 

When you consider there is a lingering sense of economic unease and concerns over inflation, it makes you wonder how out-of-touch Bianco and Hestrin are from the constituents they serve. Are they so  blinded by their own sense of arrogance and entitlement, they feel voters owe them a near $35,000 annual increase? You wouldn’t think so, but obviously they do. 

The raises would have bumped salaries of Bianco and Hestrin from $273,463 to $308,197 annually, more than four times the $76,066 median income of Riverside County residents. 

Obviously, one controversial message has failed to resonate

Despite calls to defund the police in response to demands for change and mitigation of police use of excessive force following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, police salaries are actually inching up across the country.  Even President Biden has increased funding to police coffers as part of his COVID-19 relief. Therefore, it is not surprising that elected officials like Bianco and Hestrin who are part of the criminal justice system would want a piece of the ‘salary increase’ pie. 

What is most interesting is that Bianco and Hestrin both secured reelection this year during the June 7, 2022 Primary when, with extremely low voter turnout (28.74%), they eased passed the 50% margin and managed to retain their offices. The record shows they secured the voting of an extremely small percentage of registered voters in the county. 

Small victories

Consider this: Bianco earned his victory with only  210,335 total votes or barely 16% of registered voters in the county, while Hestrin, on the other hand, was re-elected by even fewer voters,  185,041 total votes or 14% of registered voters in the county. 

With such small victories it seems they would be more focused on doing their jobs than seeking outrageous pay hikes even as their own Republican party simultaneously criticizes the economy and inflation

To me this is just another glaring example of the duplicitous nature and character flaws of the law enforcement officials who lead this county. I’m grateful the Board of Supervisors recognized the folly of this request and voted against it. 

Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.

S.E. Williams

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and social justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Over the years Stephanie has reported for other publications in the inland region and Los Angeles and received awards from the California News Publishers Association for her investigative reporting and Ethnic Media Services for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. She also served as a Health Journalism Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.