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Horsley says rising economy led him to end his $1 salary

Original post made on Jan 8, 2013

In explaining his decision to collect his $120,000 annual salary after two years of working for $1 a year, San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley cited the county's improved economic circumstances.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, January 8, 2013, 8:05 AM

Comments (38)

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 8, 2013 at 10:19 am

I'm sorry that the former sheriff has a difficult time living on a pension of $215K. Add in his supervisor's salary and his income is $335K plus benefits.

I'm sure there are many other people living in the county who have family medical bill, etc. to pay for whose income is less than $335K, and they make it work.

Posted by Lurker, a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2013 at 10:39 am

Horsley's excuses and statements are not just defensive, but also cavalier. Shame on him.

Posted by Lurker, a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2013 at 10:40 am

Also, Horsley's wife works as well. So their annual income could well exceed $400,000.

Posted by Reality, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 8, 2013 at 10:53 am

Readers should go back and review the 2010 Supervisor candidate interviews and debates. You will find that April Vargas did not bother to show up for several of these. Also, there is no need to speculate about Don's finances, as he is required to file a form 700.

Posted by Lurker, a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2013 at 11:34 am

More pressing is this: who is serving on the San Mateo Board of Supervisor's Criminal Justice Committee these days?

With the county's former chief juvenile evaluator, Dr. William Ayres, arrested for child molestation and the Chief Probation Officer, Stuart Forrest under investigation for possession of child pornography, what are the Supervisors doing about this? At least two of the Supervisors served on a Criminal Justice Committee with Forrest.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2013 at 11:50 am

Look at his smug mug! 120k/year buys a lot of medication. I'm glad to hear his MIL is so well taken care of.

Don says a lot of cavalier things -typical politician. Remember when he wanted to band certain dog breeds, because he was too ignorant of the law - as sheriff - to know that he can't do that in this state? What a great legacy he's left in place - he groomed a replacement who visits bordellos. Now, what ARE county supervisors going to do w/Stu Forrest being investigated?

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2013 at 11:51 am

*ban, not band

Posted by Ted Sinclair, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jan 8, 2013 at 11:58 am

Horsley is either ignorant or he is purposely attempting to obfuscate the point. He is correct in that anyone who works is entitled to be paid and that being in public service should not be held against him. However, both of those points were made moot by his campaign promise to forgo a salary for his services as supervisor. The campaign promise trumps all else.

The issue is clear: did Horsley make a campaign promise to forgo pay and has he chosen to break that promise?

The answer to both appear to be "yes," and the rationalizations he offers for breaking the promise seem to grow everyday:
1)He never meant for the promise to last as long as his term. If that was his intent then he should have made it clear. Otherwise it is reasonable to expect that voters thought the promise was for the full term.
2)He needs the income to care for his ailing mother-in-law. I'm not saying this is not a legitimate personal expense, HOWEVER when making the no salary promise Horsley should have considered a worse case personal needs scenario.
3)Economic circumstances for the county have improved. That may be true, but Horsley still hasn't proved that his promise was conditional.
4)His newest excuse and my favorite: most voters didn't know he made the promise so it doesn't count!!!

Posted by Scholar, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 8, 2013 at 12:26 pm

If mom in law has medicare and a medicare supplement, that about covers it. What is in Italian sandwiches? Baloney.

Posted by Hank Deeken, a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Appears he should be in Sacramento or Washington. Promises, Promises!

Posted by Chris, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 8, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Sure, $335K is a lot of $$$, but didn't he voluntarily forgo $238K to help the county? He should at least be thanked, not vilified.

Posted by gunste, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jan 8, 2013 at 4:06 pm

It seems to me that anyone who starts earning a county salary while retied from the County should forfeit his pension until he retires again. With the County and the country in dire financial straights, much of it because public bodies promised too much in benefits that come from other people's money, the taxpayers.
Currently, many of the public employees earn more than the equivalents in private industry, while getting better benefits and retirement plans. That is a ridiculous situation. Milking the taxpayer is an ingrained habit. Industry does as well as our "servants".
The County supervisors need to recall what their responsibilities are and to whom the need to answer: the rate payers!! NOT the public employees.

Posted by Elaine, a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jan 8, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Is this why we needed Measure A??? To pay for double dippers who need $335K plus good benefits? Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't a pension to give you money to live on when you retire? If you are not retired, then don't draw one. Shame on you.

Posted by Susan Smith, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 9, 2013 at 7:41 am

On this day when Don Horsley announces to the world he is the President of the Board of Supervisors, I think we should carefully consider someone who can not manage his money.....translating to somone we have entrusted to make financial decisions with our taxpayer monies. JOhn Mays of the San Mateo Daily Journal writes:

Editorial: Campaign commitments should be followed
January 09, 2013, 05:00 AM Editorial
Political campaigns are full of promises. Candidate after candidate has been known to say they would do one thing, then turn out to do another. President George H.W. Bush once said, "Read my lips, no new taxes." And then circumstances changed and he proposed new taxes.

In San Mateo County, Supervisor Don Horsley said he would not take his salary because he would already be receiving a generous pension for his 35 years in law enforcement, his last 13 as county sheriff. The pension package totals around $200,000. Late last month, however, Horsley said his family situation changed, along with the county's financial situation, and that he would indeed start taking his salary for his current job as county supervisor. That salary is approximately $115,000 a year with an additional $25,000 in benefits. Horsley's pension may be high, but it is what was decided upon previously. He earned it. And the supervisor salary is also generous, but it is what was decided upon previously. Being a supervisor is challenging. It is more than a full-time job and requires keen attention on a variety of complex issues. Supervisors earn their pay and Horsley deserves it.

He stated his financial obligations recently increased significantly with the long-term medical care of his mother-in-law. That is understandable. Many know what it is like to care for a loved one with medical needs. However, deciding to take the pay is a bit tone-deaf for several reasons. First, Horsley said he wouldn't. Second, the average government employee in San Mateo County made $53,704 in 2011, according to a recent report on public employee pay by the California Controller's Office. Horsley's pension provides him nearly four times the annual wage of an average county government worker, and to say that an extenuating financial situation requires additional money probably doesn't make sense to that average worker. Those are the workers that the Board of Supervisors must ask to have their compensation package reduced or reconfigured if the county is to continue keeping its costs in check.

The county recently benefited from a voter-approved measure to increase its sales tax by half a cent for 10 years to bring in an estimated $60 million a year. That may mean there is more wiggle room in the budget, but that doesn't mean the county should suddenly suspend its effort to keep its expenses down. And one of the primary expenses is the benefit and retirement packages for its workers — particularly its highest earners.

By not taking his salary his first two years in office, Horsley did save the county nearly $300,000 when the economy was ailing. We are by no means out of the woods, but there are strong indications the economy is on the mend. Unemployment is relatively low and housing is making a comeback.

And Horsley is well within his right to take his pay and his pension. He spent a long time in law enforcement to earn the pension, the supervisor job is a lot of work and, in life, situations change. However, there is a reason why Horsley made the commitment to refuse the pay in the first place — because some voters may not look fondly on him collecting both his pension and a paycheck. That was political calculus that has ramifications for the length of his tenure. Perhaps the lesson here is that campaign commitments should be more realistic, or followed.

Posted by double dipping, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 9, 2013 at 9:07 am

If we mere mortals in the private sector decide to return to the work force after we've started collecting Social Security, the government withholds our monthly benefits. Earn enough money, and the Social Security disappears until you retire for real.

Seems reasonable to me. Why don't our public sector workers have a similar system? Note that in Menlo Park, our former HR director is also collecting a healthy consulting fee while pulling in over $140k/year in pension.

Maybe when government salaries were way lower than the private sector and people didn't retire until they were 90% dead, this made sense. No more.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 9, 2013 at 9:17 am

Voters passed Measure A and approved the highest state income and sales taxes in the country.

All of that money for politicians to spend, the same politicians who have been totally unable to balance a budget or reign in pensions and wasteful spending.

I suspect California will eventuallly wake up... on Chapter 11 of this non-fiction text.

Posted by Jack Hickey, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jan 9, 2013 at 11:53 am

In an open letter to Mr. Horsley, Michael Stogner, a regular critic of county government, said that if Mr. Horsley does not rescind his decision, he (Mr. Stogner) would initiate a recall. "I would invite you to reconsider and withdraw your decision on reneging on this promise within the next 30 days," Mr. Stogner wrote. "Barring this reconsideration and reversal, I will start a recall petition so voters can take action based on your broken promise to them."

Very interesting! Would a recall election of Horsley be "at large" or by "District"? The latter would require one fifth as many signatures to qualify.
Don Horsley sits on the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) and stands in the way of Dissolution of the Sequoia Healthcare District. Web Link
I would be happy to support a recall effort
Call for recall

Posted by Reality, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 9, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Jack, some say it was a giant waste of taxpayer (and candidate) money to put yourself on the ballot when you had two more years on the health district board. Horsley took no salary for the first two years of his four years term, and he'll be on the 2014 ballot if he decides to run again. You and Mr. Stogner need to figure out a way to do your recall and special election without wasting additional taxpayer dollars.

Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jan 9, 2013 at 4:02 pm


It won't be my recall it will be thousands of tax payer's recall.

Posted by Jack Hickey, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jan 9, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Reality, Horsley used the Sequoia Healthcare District PR dollars to polish his image for his Supervisorial run.

Posted by Michael G Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jan 9, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Jack wrote:
"Very interesting! Would a recall election of Horsley be "at large" or by "District"? The latter would require one fifth as many signatures to qualify."

I called the elections office last week to cover this very issue, they determined that since we are now elected by District the recall will be by District which goes like this !0% of registered voters if more than 100,000 and 15% if less. District 3 shows around 84,000 registered voters so x 15% equals around 12,500

Still hopeful Mr. Horsley will do the right thing and correct this, He is a former Sworn Law Enforcement Officer he knows about oaths, Would any of our school teachers want him to come and speak to the class about ethics and the importance of keeping your word. Lets fix this while we still can.

Posted by Michael G Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jan 10, 2013 at 7:51 am

Don Horsley, "A recall would be senseless"

At least I know he got my e-mail.

Web Link

Posted by Thomas, a resident of another community
on Jan 10, 2013 at 8:19 am

Prior to working for the County Sheriff's Office, Mr. Horsley reportedly worked as a school teacher, juvenile hall counselor and as a Police Officer for one of our local Cities in San Mateo County. It would be interesting to verify if Mr. Horsley is currently receiving any additional retirement benefites from any of these employers.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 10, 2013 at 10:23 am

The biggest issue isn't Don Horsley and this outsized compensation - although "double dipping" by all retired public sector employees is clearly problematic. The private sector cannot do that with Social Security.

The bigger issue is the failure to honor and respect a campaign PROMISE. Where is the integrity in our governance?

Politicians appear to be willing to promise almost anything today... then just ignore the public who elected them. Whether it is a promise to raise taxes on people making a certain amount, pledging to cut spending or reform entitlements, or even promising to take a "balanced approach" to problems, it's just a whole new ball game after the election. It's almost no big deal.

In that regard, Don Horsley is just the latest example at the county level. And voters appear oblivious to holding anyone accountable at the next election.

How's that working out America? How's that working out California?

Posted by Michael G Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jan 10, 2013 at 11:38 am

January 10th 2013 Don Horsley asked "Point out to me any other public official in California that doesn't take a salary. Its discriminatory to say i should not take a salary like all my colleagues do."

Gov. Schwarzenegger comes to mind when he only took 1 dollar per year during his full term.

Just to remind Mr. Horsley this was his and his political campaign managers public statement.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on Jan 10, 2013 at 11:45 am

Poor Horsley! He's being discriminated against, he thinks, because we want him to honor his promise. He's such a victim - in his own mind.

Posted by Lurket, a resident of another community
on Jan 10, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Elsewhere, Mitt Romney only took a dollar in salary a year when he was Governor of MA. NYC's Mayor Bloomberg has never taken a salary either. I am sure that if someone did some research, one would find other government figures in CA who are currently not taking a salary. It was foolish of Mr. Horsley to have made such a definitive statement, as others will now be fact checking it.

Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Jan 10, 2013 at 3:01 pm

A couple of points not necessarily related to whether or not Mr Horsley should or should not have changed course on this issue. One, is he doing a good job, is he earning the salary, if yes, then whats the problem? Two, if you really come across a politician who takes ZERO salary, that is a legal problem you should really be afraid of--there are reasons for the $1`/year minimum. I am much more bothered by the primary poster here; one who throws stones at those who serve, but doesn't serve himself nor could he likiely be elected if he ran

Posted by anne, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 10, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Clearly, it was unfair to his opponent April Vargas. Don is wrong and I can't forget this. He will never get my vote again.

Posted by Michael G Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jan 10, 2013 at 4:30 pm

San Mateo County Media facts regarding Don Horsley Breaking/reneging on election promise or as some have reported is now accepting his salary.

To this day the San Mateo County Times with approx 80,000 subscribers...No story
Pacifica Tribune just published the accepting story.
Half Moon Bay Review No Story

So the good news is very few people of the over 700,000 residents of SMC know anything about these 3 subjects, Broken Promise, Rethink and Correct, Recall if necessary.

Posted by Dave Boyce, Almanac staff writer
on Jan 10, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

On the question of which voters would be involved if Mr. Horsley is subject to a recall election -- by voters countywide or in District 3 only -- Deputy County Counsel Glenn Levy told the Almanac that the County Counsel's office has not yet arrived at a definitive answer.

"It's a pretty complicated legal question because the county shifted over to district-based voting," Mr. Levy said. "Our office is looking into what it's going to be."

"There's a lot of research that we're trying to do," he added.

An answer to this question may be forthcoming as soon as Monday, Jan. 14, Mr. Levy said.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 10, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Hmmm -

Perfectly said. This is about his PROMISE and his INTEGRITY, not his PERFORMANCE.

Posted by Michael G Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jan 10, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Why would County Counsel be involved in this issue at this time. I already called the Elections Office and confirmed it will be by District before I sent Supervisor Horsley my e-mail.

Mr. Horsley still has 28 days to make his decision and hopefully he will make the right one and correct his recent action. I would like to know who asked the County Counsel to get involved? It sure wasn't me I already got my answer.

Posted by Lurker, a resident of another community
on Jan 11, 2013 at 1:23 pm

On Drudge front page right now: Detroit government worker working two six figure government jobs: Web Link

Posted by Michael G Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jan 11, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Supervisor Don Horsley has changed his mind and will honor his promise to only receive $1.00 per year for the remainder of his term.

Thank You Mr. Horsley.

Posted by anne, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 11, 2013 at 6:49 pm

What changed his mind?

Posted by Michael G.Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jan 12, 2013 at 8:53 am

I received an email from Chris Hunter who is Supervisor Don Horsley's aide. Titled for your consideration, it was the official statement. This was in response to my email asking Mr. Horsley to reverse his decision .

Posted by Sarah, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 14, 2013 at 8:57 am

Not a good idea to go back on your promises. It could come back and bite you.

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