County Supervisors Mull Severance Packages for Themselves

Members of the Polk County, Iowa, Board of Supervisors earn $95,806 a year, which goes pretty far in Des Moines. In a show of belt tightening at a time when the county faced a $5.3 million budget deficit, they took no raise this fiscal year. Next year's budget, which dips into reserves to cover a $2.7 million deficit, gives the supervisors a 1 percent bump. But the Polk County Compensation Board thinks the supervisors have sacrificed too much in the name of fiscal austerity. To reward them for their self-restraint, it recently recommended that the supervisors and the county's five other elected officials (attorney, auditor, recorder, treasurer, and sheriff) receive severance payments of up to $30,000. Under the board's proposal, an elected official who has served at least eight years would receive one week's pay for each year in office if he retired or voters decided to fire him. That's in addition to the retirement benefits that all public employees receive under the state pension system, and it would presumably help take the sting out of losing an election. If the supervisors, three of whom seem receptive to the idea, do decide to approve severance payments for themselves, they could be receiving them sooner than expected.

[Thanks to Mark Lambert for the tip.]

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  • ||

    Y'know, symbolism and all that jazz, but a severence package of one week per year served, with a week of pay being (correct me if I'm missing something, 95806 / 52 = $1842 and change), up to a maxium of $30,000, with that only coming if they've served more than 15 years...

    It just doesn't seem like a huge deal, even by county government standards. It's at most an $1,842 outlay per person per year. It's going to take a hell of a lot of people for that to be an appreciable amount of a budget that can rack up multi-million dollar deficits.

  • ||

    Yep. I think, likewise, that I should get $100,000 for quitting work. Since it's just me, and averages out to a very low number per city employee, it shouldn't be a big deal.

    Now, how do I get to approve this for myself?

  • Supervisor||

    Run for office, you lazy bastard!

  • ||

    I don't think that even elected officials could get away with that in Texas... but maybe I'm wrong.

  • ||

    Meh. Honestly, if you got $100,000, and that was the extent of it, then I wouldn't really care a lot about it.

    And since this is an outlay of $100,000 only for three employees who've worked a combined > 45 years... Again, it's real hard to care.

    Reason could put up 100 stories a day of this kind of penny-ante stuff, and in a year, if every one of those stories resulted in all the waste gone, we wouldn't have even started in significantly cutting the size of government.

    I'm not denying that little things add up, but given that this is a blog with a national audience, even if we're going for "the dollar value is small but it's the PRINCIPLE of the thing," couldn't we find something that illustrates the same principles and amounts to more than a few thousand dollars a year?

    What makes this story particularly worthy of my attention, even if it is just symbolic? Can't we find an example of featherbedding that's a little more extreme than this? If not, I kind of conclude that featherbedding isn't a big problem.

  • Charlie Sheen||

    What makes this story particularly worthy of my attention, even if it is just symbolic?

    Beats the shit outta me!

  • Mark Lambert||

    Michael, to me the issue isn't so much the nest feathering (lots of public officials vote on thier own pay), as it is that paying severance pay to ELECTED OFFICIALS who get voted out of office is entirely unheard of. I just find the concept completely shocking. When they take those jobs, they know they might be out the next election, or the one after that. And, who the heck gets severance pay for RETIRING?

  • Al Lowme||

    Can't we find an example of featherbedding that's a little more extreme than this?

    Why yes, yes we can; this is the comic relief.

  • ||

    I'm not denying that little things add up,

    You aren't? Seems like both your posts could be summed up with "little things don't add up" as if 30k was a little thing.

    By your standard we could never criticize any public spending as long as there was something worse elsewhere. Basically, "Don't convict that person for assault, someone else thousands of miles away committed murder".

    I kind of conclude that featherbedding isn't a big problem.

    Of course it isn't. Gazillions of dollars of debt just happens by accident.

  • ||

    You aren't? Seems like both your posts could be summed up with "little things don't add up" as if 30k was a little thing.

    I'm not. But, yes, $30k is a little thing.

    Look, someone should be watching for the little things that add up. But this is a blog to a very wide audience, and this is a particularly little thing. Again, even if through our attention, thousands of individual $1,000 (or $30,000) line items were removed each year, then we'd be talking about... millions or tens of millions of dollars saved each year.

    The libertarian agenda (which I'm on board with) suggests that hundreds of billions of dollars of government spending needs to be cut. You just can't practically do that by focusing democratic attention on $1,000 (or $30,000) line items.

  • ||

    You must stomp out corruption whereever it exists. $30k isn't little when looked at by the take payer who's footing the bill for the cost. That's 2/3s of the median household annual income for the nation- for free. For nothing. Because they can. Because they sucked at their job, or wanted to stop doing it. It's a downpayment on a $300k house. It's a brand new subaru suv. It's not a "little thing".

  • ||

    You must stomp out corruption whereever it exists.

    Well, no. Look, some corruption is going to happen. It's just impossible to be 100% efficient everywhere.

    And if you get caught in the weeds hunting down $30,000 bit-payments, you miss the significant stuff: things literally a thousand to a million times more important.

    $30k isn't little when looked at by the take payer who's footing the bill for the cost.

    The population of Polk County, Iowa is 430,000 and change, according to Wikipedia. To be clear, there are 10 people that this proposed law would cover (5 supervisors, 5 other officials). Per year, it's less than $1,900 per official. So less than $19,000 per year (it's only that high if all 10 of them have served 8 years or more). So, less than $0.50 per resident per year.

    That's not a down payment on anything, I'm sorry.

    If this were a Polk County, Iowa blog, okay, sure. It'd still be a small item, even for only Polk County. But, someone's gotta do the gruntwork of finding the small stuff, which does add up.

    But on a national level, talking about stuff this unimportant just ends up looking unserious. It's like when politicians make grand statements about how they're going to cut spending by "cutting waste."

    We need to talk about things that trim billions or tens of billions of dollars out of government spending. At the very least tens of millions.

    I mean, I get that this is fundamentally the reason.com equivalent of a human-interest story, not a serious policy thing. But:

    1. It's particularly penny-ante, even by the standards of a short, throwaway blog post.

    2. I feel like there's recently been a lot of this kind of essentially puff story, and relatively little on big-ticket items.

  • ||

    Excuse me, off by a power of 10. Less than $0.05 per resident of Polk County per year, not $0.50 per resident of Polk County per year.

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    It isn't per year! They are doing this after having already served those years, so it's all at once.

  • ||

    It doesn't matter how much it is per citizen, is my point. I mean, fuck, give them each $1/citizen and you're still only talking about $3/citizen per year of service, right?

    That is the dumbest possible way to look at this. They are giving themselves baloon payments in case they get fired that are enough to make a real difference in people's lives.

  • Mark Lambert||

    Michael: The deal is, this is not a "cutting large government waste blog" -- if it were, I'd agree with you. It's a blog about politics and culture in the US and the world, from a libertarian viewpoint. That means that sometimes even small things that are particularly troublesome from a libertian perspective will get blogged about. In this case, here's something that is apparently a pretty new concept, that's really a bad idea from both libertarian and general public policy perspectives, that could spread to other governments around the country. I don't see why that doesn't qualify for blogging about just because it's not a huge amount of money.

  • Mark Lambert||

    ALSO...please keep in mind that it's not the amount of bucks at stake that make an interesting and informative blog post. A blog post about a grade-school kid getting suspended from school for pointing his finger at another kid and saying "bang, bang" is informative about the ridiculous way "zero tolerance" rules are implemented in schools. It's not that the one situation is a major national issue, it's illustrative of a larger problem, even though it only affects the one kid or arguably the other kids in that school.

  • James Bondage||

    If you're frugal (and the rents are Iowa rents, not New York or San Francisco), you and a spouse could live on that for a year. It's preposterous to make that the bonus for losing an election.

  • Invisible Finger||

    I'm not. But, yes, $30k is a little thing.

    Then YOU can pay the 30K.

    If it's so little, then they don't need it at all.

  • Virginia||

    several of the council members agree with you:

    Supervisor Angela Connolly: “I’d probably support it, but I would need to know a little more about it. It wouldn’t hit the county budget all at once. Thirty thousand dollars, yes, it’s a lot of money, but I don’t think it’s going to rob the budget.”
    Annual salary: $95,806

    yeah, i mean shit it's only $30,000. what's the big fucking deal? you Iowa rubes would just spend it on corn liquor or maybe food for your kids so fuck off.

  • Paul||

    It just doesn't seem like a huge deal, even by county government standards. It's at most an $1,842 outlay per person per year.

    Guess how big my severence package was after working for a company for 17 years? Guess? Go ahead.

    ..
    ...
    ....
    .....
    .....

    $0

    A $30,000 severence package for being fired by the voters is fucking Japanese Earthquake and Subsequent Tsunami big.

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    Not to mention that this hasn't been building up per year. These people haven't been working with the lower pay that this kind of benefit would entail. They would be getting their cake, and eating the taxpayer's too.

    It's not "$1842 a year" because this money hasn't been building up. It's just *BAM* $30,000 this year.

  • ||

    more symbolism, but being able to vote raises and bonuses for themselves just seems rediculous. Taxpayers, the involuntary shareholders, should be able to approve or reject pay for anyone in an elected position and not those in the positions themselves.

  • Virginia||

    Here's how the current members of the Polk County Compensation Board voted:

    • Scott Brennan, appointed by the Board of Supervisors voted YES.
    • Joseph Quinn, appointed by the Board of Supervisors voted YES.
    • James Brick, appointed by the county recorder voted YES.
    • Steven Wandro, appointed by the county sheriff ABSTAINED.
    • Robert Tully, appointed by the county treasurer voted NO.
    • Maureen Tobin, appointed by the county attorney voted YES.
    • Ned F. Chiodo, appointed by the county auditor voted YES.

    How much does the compensation board get paid?

  • ||

    So an "independent board" is people appointed by those getting the raise?

  • ||

    I bravely abstained from this vote. See how courageous I am?

  • Barack Obama||

    Should have gone with "Present."

  • Al Lowme||

  • ||

    "Go 'way! Huskin'!"

  • ||

    I wonder which one will propose renaming the Board of Supervisors?

    Central Committee sounds more appropriate. Or House of Lords would work, too.

  • ||

    Oops. Don't know how Politburo slipped my mind.

  • Paul||

    Ministry of Something or Other works well, too.

  • ||

    or simply, the party.

  • Rich||

    How about "The Trough"?

  • Mark Lambert||

    Since when do ELECTED officials get SEVERANCE PAY for losing an election? It's unheard of, and ridiculous. Very, very few private sector employees get severance pay, and usually only when they get down-sized, not when they get CANNED, which is what losing an election is.

  • ||

    Actually, the POTUS gets it.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Another reason to never vote for anyone under the age of 80.

  • Supervisor||

    It seemed like a good idea when we were all out behind the barn tok, uh, smoking and joking.

  • ||

    it's real hard to care.

    If you think it's no big deal, why don't you just pay for it yourself, big spender?

  • Paul||

    Members of the Polk County, Iowa, Board of Supervisors earn $95,806 a year, which goes pretty far in Des Moines

    Fuck that. It goes far in Seattle.

  • Anomalous||

    Severance package? How about a guillotine?

  • Joe Kristan||

    The proposal is outrageous, it's horrendous, but as a Polk County taxpayer, I feel that getting rid of that bunch for $30,000 per head would be a great bargain. Especially if the positions could be left vacant.

  • ||

    So less than $19,000 per year (it's only that high if all 10 of them have served 8 years or more). So, less than $0.50 per resident per year.

    So, as you have quite rightly shown, widely dispersed costs are funneled to a small group of "lucky" recipients through government action.

    But it's no big deal.

    You really are a moron, aren't you?

  • We can hope||

    If voting them out of office costs this much, might be a lot more cost effective to just shoot them out of office.

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