EL CENTRO — The two District 2 candidates running for a seat on the Imperial County Board of Supervisors presented their cases Tuesday night to a crowd of less than 15 people in hopes of convincing voters to cast their ballots for them in the March 3 primary election.Supervisor candidates dispute numbers at forum
The candidates running for the position are incumbent Luis Plancarte and challenger Claudia Camarena.
The two supervisor candidates have differing opinions on the salaries top-ranking county employees make, with Camarena saying many of those salaries are comparable to counties like Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange County.
Plancarte disputed the numbers and asked for the public to check out the Transparent California website to get the correct facts.
According to the latest website numbers from 2018, 10 county employees make more than $200,000 in salaries and benefits, and more than another 325 employees make more than $100,000.
Another nearly two dozen employees were on the cusp of making six figures, too, in 2018, but with the 2 percent salary increase across the board the county is providing, they, too, would make more than $100,000 a year in salaries and benefits.
Camarena, a former Imperial County program manager for 30 years, said she has expertise in assessment and thinks the supervisors need someone who has some knowledge of county government.
Camarena said she watched the State of the County speech last week that was delivered by Board Chairman Plancarte and wondered why there was no mention that the county, as of September, was $20 million in debt.
She said she also wonders why one director received a significant increase, while little has been done for the homeless population.
“It’s very important for a person in this position to have a working relationship with the county, and (that is) lacking,” she said.
Plancarte who has lived in the district for 30 years with his wife and children, said for the past 40 years he has served the community on various boards and organizations.
“I am here because I want to continue to serve the residents of Imperial County,” he said.
The supervisor said he is extremely fortunate that his employer embraces its workers to give back and serve the residents of the county.
On a question on the Salton Sea and New River emergency declarations, Plancarte said the motive was to get the state of California to move faster. He added that everything has been slowed down with all of the permits that are needed.
“Our hope is it will remove the handcuffs from the state of California,” he said. He and other county staff will be going to Washington, D.C., to talk with legislators about the two issues.
Camarena said she would looking at the federal government to make sure they are doing what is necessary.
She said the county sending a supervisor and staff to Washington D.C. will not do anything because the only thing that will be accomplished is meeting people.
“This is bold,” she said. “We need to think big.”
Another question focused on the 2.2 percent wage increase all county employees are getting for each of the next two years.
Camarena again pointed out the county has a $20 million deficit and added that there are numerous county positions and jobs that need to be eliminated, starting with those in the CEO’s office.
She also thinks state money to fund positions in the District Attorney’s Office was never allocated.
“At this time, the budget is a smokescreen,” Camarena said.
Plancarte said there are a lot of figures being thrown around and asked the public to look at the Transparent California website to get the right information.
The $20 million deficit, he said, is due to some payments that not been paid yet, and stressed at the end of the year the deficit will be zero.
The 2.2 percent wage increase, he said is needed because those working for the county could make more elsewhere for the same work.
“They are working at a discount,” he said.
In his closing remarks, Plancarte said the position of supervisor requires a lot of teamwork and not criticism.
“It takes a lot of time, dedication, education and research,” he said.
Camarena in her closing remarks said all she is doing is repeating the information she receives about the county, so she is not criticizing anyone.
“I do not come out accusatory; I come out with the facts,” she said.
Camarena repeated her pledge to give 50 percent to 75 percent of her supervisor salary to nonprofits and schools.
Staff Writer Michael Maresh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.