FLORENCE — Shortly after Pinal County Recorder Virginia Ross requested an extra $12,000 in pay a year for handling the county’s elections — and the Board of Supervisors approved it on a 3-2 vote — Ross decided she didn’t want the compensation after all.
Ross, a Republican who was elected in November, told the Maricopa Monitor in an email that she took the memorandum of understanding between her and the board — which initially asked for another $12,000 in pay — back to the County Attorney’s Office for further review, and that resulted in the removal of language about added compensation from the agreement.
Ross said she took the agreement back to the County Attorney’s Office because of certain “public objections” to the additional pay. On Jan. 30, the supervisors approved Ross’s request to receive $12,000 on top of her base salary of $63,800 to be the person whom the Elections Department reports to. Previously an assistant county manager filled that role, with the supervisors being the final authority. Now the elections staff will report to Ross.
The revised agreement will be on the board’s agenda for a vote at its Feb. 13 meeting.
“Although there have been similar agreements in other counties that paid the recorder to manage elections, I believe this update is in the best interest of the public,” Ross wrote. “To be clear, (I have) not received any additional compensation.”
At the board’s Jan. 30 meeting, when it approved the original memo with a 3-2 vote, Supervisor Pete Rios, the only Democrat on the five-member board, questioned the legality of giving an elected official additional pay on top his or her base salary.
“If you look at Arizona Revised Statutes 11-419, it will specifically enumerate how much (salary) each elected official gets, depending on the county population,” he said. “It does not allow for any additional salaries to be paid to county officials.
“I think we’ve got a legal problem here.”
Board Chairman Steve Miller also voted against the agreement. He said he was fine with Ross’s taking ultimate authority over elections (he voted in favor of it Jan. 9), but he was opposed to her receiving any extra pay on top of her mandated $63,800 salary.
“I didn’t have a problem with it if it was just lateral; I do have a problem with the compensation,” he said. “I was under the impression that it was just a lateral move.”
Republican Supervisors Cheryl Chase, Todd House and Anthony Smith voted to approve the additional salary.
Henry Wade, chairman of the Pinal County Democratic Party, who also ran for District 4 supervisor but lost to Smith, voiced opposition at last week’s meeting to not only the added pay but to giving the recorder authority over elections.
Wade said having the Elections Department report to any partisan elected official, whether Democrat or Republican, could lead to “bias” or “suppression of the vote.” He said the system worked just fine for 21 years under the previous reporting structure to the assistant county manager and the board.
“Why are we changing something that’s not broken, and now we’re paying to change it,” Wade said. “It just doesn’t seem like it’s a very good idea.”