Example of a woman with money. Photo via Pixabay.

The 10 highest paid officials in Riverside County government last year were working in public safety and behavioral health, according to data published by the California State Controller’s Office.

The 2021 “Government Compensation in California” report shows how taxpayer funds were spent in the previous year, and who was receiving what for being on the public payroll.

Figures were released by the controller’s office just ahead of the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

The data, available via www.publicpay.ca.gov, indicated that the largest composite salary in 2021 — $609,323 — went to a sheriff’s communication supervisor, who was not named on the web portal.

The amount included base pay and overtime compensation — the latter accounting for more than half of the total paid to the individual, according to the controller’s office.

Sheriff’s officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how the employee reached a total compensation level that, individually, exceeded the pay received by the sheriff and every other administrator in the agency. Sheriff Chad Bianco’s total earnings were $294,520, according to the report.

It listed an assistant chief investigator in the District Attorney’s Office as the second-highest paid. The career law enforcement officer, also not identified, received an aggregate compensation of $535,084, almost double what District Attorney Mike Hestrin received, which equaled the sheriff’s pay.

In government speak, when a subordinate makes more than the superior, it’s called “compaction.” The Board of Supervisors in 2014 hiked executive salaries in an attempt to fix disparities.

A $314,211 lump sum payment was made to the investigator, apart from his regular salary, possibly for unused — or “banked” — vacation and sick time, as well as per diem allowances and related disbursals that weren’t specified, but are built into union contracts with the county.

A staff psychiatrist at the Department of Mental Health was No. 3 on the list, taking home $520,781

The medical director of the Department of Mental Health was fourth on the list, at $514,138, followed by another staff psychiatrist — this one assigned to the jail system — earning $488,230 in 2021, according to figures.

The balance of the top 10 was comprised of the chief of psychiatry and four other staff psychiatrists in the Riverside University Health System, whose total compensation ranged from $412,000 to $473,000 last year.

Not one elected county official appeared in the top 50 of the controller’s list for Riverside County. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Van Wagenen was at No. 41, with total compensation of $354,808, according to the report.

Board members were way down the list for annual compensation packages, making less than many deputy public defenders, senior RUHS nurses, even a laboratory researcher, figures showed.

The supervisors’ pay ranged from $161,744 to $197,396 in 2021, with Supervisor Kevin Jeffries at the bottom because he has consistently declined pay raises since first taking office in 2013. He’s the most senior member of the board and announced that he will be retiring from politics at the completion of his current term in 2024.

The controller’s website indicated the average pay for a county employee last year was $66,579. County government is the single largest employer in Riverside County, with more than 25,000 positions. Roughly $1.75 billion in total wages were paid in 2021.

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