Riverside County supervisors Tuesday approved a 27-month employment agreement with Chief Executive Officer George Johnson, without raising his current annual salary but guaranteeing increased benefits and a payoff in the event he’s fired before the contract expires.

“Mr. Johnson has served Riverside County for 27 years,” according to a Department of Human Resources statement posted to the Board of Supervisors’ agenda. “In his role as county executive officer, Mr. Johnson will continue his commitment to public service in an effort to improve the livelihood of the residents and businesses of Riverside County.”

The board affirmed the contract, which is effective Tuesday and ends Dec. 30, 2020, in a 5-0 vote without comment.

Under the terms, Johnson will continue to receive an annual salary of $343,240. However, the agreement showed a total potential compensation package of $543,682, factoring in health benefits, annual leave accruals, deferred compensation, retirement and other taxpayer-funded coverage. According to the Executive Office, Johnson’s current total comp package is $456,861.

The CEO will remain an at-will employee under the agreement, meaning he could be terminated at any time at the board’s discretion. However, he would be entitled to the balance of payments remaining under his contract, according to the terms.

A Department of Human Resources survey of salaries and benefits for chief executives in nine other counties comparable in size to Riverside showed that Johnson’s maximum potential annual income and perks will be in line with the average for the others. But his base salary will be notably higher than CEOs in Orange and San Bernardino counties, whose top administrators are earning $299,416 and $310,155, respectively, figures showed.

Johnson was appointed chief in May 2017, following the voluntary departure of then-CEO Jay Orr, who was at the helm for five years.

Johnson served as chief financial officer toward the end of Orr’s term.

Johnson has stressed a cautious path forward for the county, recommending limited use of reserves and the enforcement of budgetary discipline to pare down deficit-spending and maintain credit-worthiness.

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