What's worse than asking for a raise?

Not asking for one, apparently.

About a dozen Contra Costa employees and union leaders last week berated County Administrator David Twa when the board of supervisors voted him a pay and benefit hike he never requested.

Starting July 1, Twa will earn $260,000 base annual pay, another two weeks a year vacation, plus the county will contribute $23,000 per year into his 401(k) retirement fund. Combined, it amounts to a 16.5 percent increase in wages and benefits.

It would be disingenuous to portray Twa as an unwitting victim.

Twa knew a pay increase would unleash fury in a county where almost every employee -- including himself -- hadn't seen a raise in five years.

So, he didn't ask for or expect one, but he couldn't stay without one.

He told the supervisors, in so many words, "You can't politically afford to give me a raise and I can't afford to stay without one."

Like many public employees, Twa has watched his salary go backward. He started in 2008 at $250,000 a year, a rate which has fallen to $243,000.

Unlike his county comrades, though, he orchestrated his own wage slide.

He recommended all managers take pay cuts not long after he arrived in Contra Costa to find a $50 million deficit next to the "Welcome to Your New Home!" fruit basket.

Twa's new contract was a business decision.

Supervisors knew Twa would leave if they didn't give him a reason to stay.


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And if he left, the county could end up spending more on a new and untested manager just as the economy begins to turn. Twa's salary is already lower than many of his city and county counterparts.

None of this would matter if Twa was a mediocre sort of bloke.

But he led the county to pass a balanced budget with reserves for the first time in years, streamlined departments and cut by more than half the county's retirement health benefits debt.

Twa has closed $100 million worth of budget shortfalls since 2008, about 8 percent of the county's $1.2 billion general purposes receipts. Much of the money came out of wages and benefits, but less than two dozen people were laid off.

One angry county worker who spoke against Twa's new contract conceded that his budgeting skills probably saved her job.

"We asked David to do the impossible -- balance the budget with no cuts to services and minimal layoffs," Supervisor Federal Glover said. "Some employees don't realize that without David in the administrator's role, we could have seen a lot of layoffs."

Supervisor John Gioia characterized Twa's performance as "miraculous."

"What he has done benefits the taxpayers and the employees. More important, it helps the people who need the services. That's why we're here, to serve the public."

But let's face it, a guy who pulls down more than $240,000 a year doesn't cut a sympathetic figure, especially among the county workers who earn a fraction of his salary.

It may help to remember that a rising tide lifts all boats.

"(Twa) has the experience to lead this county right now and I believe you have the best chance to give raises to all your employees with his leadership," District Attorney Mark Peterson told the supervisors.

In other words, don't abandon ship just as it begins to float.

GOT POLITICS? Read PoliticsWithLisaV.blogspot.com:

N Pittsburg attorney, mortician and former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla will be Contra Costa County's next clerk-recorder and registrar of voters.

N Watch Contra Costa Supervisor Federal Glover deliver the annual "State of the County" speech to the Contra Costa Council.

N Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich enters Assembly District 16 race, joining Orinda Councilman Steve Glazer.

AND FINALLY: Contra Costa is recruiting applicants for the county's property tax assessment appeal board.

This is the panel charged with hearing oil giant Chevron's big dollar challenges to the taxable value of its Richmond refinery, so supervisors pay extra attention to their choices.

Which brings us to applicant John T. Nejedly, an elected trustee on the Contra Costa Community College board, a general contractor, lawyer and Realtor.

He is also Contra Costa Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho's brother, although the two remain estranged following an ugly legal challenge to their father and late state Sen. John A. Nejedly's will.

But on the application, Nejedly marked "no" his answer to the question about whether he has a "familial" relationship with anyone on the board.

The county began asking the question a few years ago after a brouhaha erupted over whether the board should appoint Mary's husband, David Piepho, to a cemetery board.

"I don't have a familial relationship with Mary," Nejedly said.

Actually, yes, you do. What did he think the term meant?

"I didn't look it up," Nejedly conceded.

Oh brother.

Contact Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773, lvorderbrueggen@bayareanewsgroup.com, politicswithlisav.blogspot.com or Twitter.com/lvorderbrueggen.