Kern County Health Official Gets $42,000 Raise – One Year After Receiving a $13,000 Raise

The board of Kern Health Systems, a quasi-independent, taxpayer-funded county agency, voted 5-4 this month to give a $42,000 raise to Chief Executive Officer Carol Sorrell, who received a $13,000 raise roughly one year earlier.

The Bakersfield Californian noted that the first raise was granted "in the midst of the Great Recession."

Ms. Sorrell argued that the raise simply restores her pay to its 2008 level, because the board last year eliminated an incentive bonus plan that provided an annual 15 percent bonus. With the latest increase, she will receive $325,000 per year, plus generous health and retirement benefits.

A board member who could have blocked the raise was not able to do so, because she left the meeting early and missed the vote. "Had I known I would be the tie vote, I would have stayed," Bernita Jenkins said. "I take full blame for leaving the meeting, not knowing the vote would be that close. If I had been there, I would have voted 'no.'" She said the meeting began at 7 a.m., and she left shortly after 11 a.m. to go to work.

The agency, which administers Medi-Cal funds, has a reserve of approximately $70 million. It came under scrutiny in recent years after news reports that it spent $8 million on an audit that was never completed.

The Kern County Board of Supervisors reacted negatively to the raise, and indicated that it may look for ways to put more controls on the agency's spending. (Source: The Bakersfield Californian, January 13.)

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