Report Lists County Government Officials with Largest Paychecks

US Dollar bills, veer of money

RIVERSIDE (CNS) - Most of the 10 highest paid officials in Riverside County government last year worked in health care, according to data published by the California State Controller's Office.

State Controller Betty Yee earlier this week released the 2018 ``Government Compensation in California'' report to show how taxpayer funds were spent, and who was receiving what for being on the public payroll.

The data, available at, indicated that the county's largest composite salary in 2018 -- $582,430 -- went to the director of the Department of Public Social Services. Susan von Zabern served in the position until late September, when she resigned amid scandals stemming from cases handled by the agency's child services branch. Von Zabern was replaced by Sarah Mack, and it was unclear whether the dollar figure cited by the state referred to only von Zabern's earnings, or was a combination of her and her successor's.

The amount included base pay, ``lump sum'' distributions, such as for unused vacation time, per diem allowances and related disbursals, according to the controller's office.

The report listed a former managing deputy district attorney, Robert Harton, as the county's second-highest paid last year at $527,118. Harton received substantial payouts from accumulated sick leave and vacation time, according to the District Attorney's Office. His aggregate compensation was almost double what District Attorney Mike Hestrin received -- $278,104. Hestrin was No. 124 on the compensation list.

The medical director of the Department of Mental Health was third up on the list, at $460,627, followed by the chief of psychiatry at No. 4, earning $416,990 in 2018, according to figures.

A staff psychiatrist at the Department of Mental Health was listed at No. 5, taking home $414,354.

The balance of the top 10 was composed of two other staff psychiatrists, a sheriff's captain, Riverside University Health System CEO Zareh Sarrafian and RUHS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Arnold Tabuenca.

Tabuenca received $384,906 in total compensation, making him the 10th highest paid official in county government, while Sarrafian took in $389,057 in 2018, landing him at No. 9, according to the report.

Not one elected county official appeared in the top 50 of the controller's list for Riverside County. Former Sheriff Stan Sniff was at No. 70, with his compensation totaling $294,519, some of which may have included one-time disbursals when he left office in December. However, multiple subordinates in the sheriff's ranks received salaries and benefits well in excess of what their boss got, figures showed.

In government-speak, when a subordinate makes more than the superior, it's called ``compaction.'' The Board of Supervisors in 2014 hiked Sniff's salary in an attempt to fix the disparity.

The Supervisors themselves were not among the top 800 county salaries, making less than clinical pharmacists at the Riverside University Health System, information technology analysts at the Department of Information Technology, even a senior public information specialist at the fire department who earned $187,207 in 2018, according to the report.

The controller's website indicated the average pay for a county employee last year was $61,482. County government is the largest employer in Riverside County, with about 23,000 positions. Roughly $1.59 billion in total wages were paid in 2018.

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