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Bauer, Alpers differ over county salaries

May 11, 2012

Mono County’s District 3 is made up of parts of Mammoth, June Lake, Lee Vining (after redistricting last year) and the Mono Basin. It ends at the Conway Summit line, where District 4 takes off.

It’s a district made mostly of people with links to Mammoth—for jobs, hospitals, shopping. When Mammoth suffers, District 3 suffers.

Vikki Bauer has been the district’s supervisor for the past seven years and five months. Candidate Tim Alpers was a county supervisor two times before—once as a District 2 supervisor from 1983 to 1989 and then as a District 3 supervisor from 1993 to 1997.

The race for District 3 so far has little of the fireworks of District 4—no messy family feuds, no allegations of negative campaigning. But in recent months, at least one division and one old skeleton in the closet has showed up.

First the division.

“I’ve talked to 29 different businesses from June Lake to Mammoth Lakes in the past several months and not one of them has been able to pay themselves in last three to seven months,” Alpers said. “There is a whole lot of quiet desperation out there. And there’s a disconnect at the county level. I’d like to make sure that the county is paying its at-will employees and management employees commensurate with their experience, but not more. There’s a sense of unfairness with the unions at this, they are having a hard time with it.”

He said he takes issue with how Bauer, who is chair of the board now, treated Supervisor Larry Johnston, who sharply opposed approving a group of at-will and management employee contracts, or increasing the salaries of several management positions, in a meeting in April.

“I do disagree deeply with that,” he said. “I didn’t agree with Andrea Lawrence when I was on the board and I didn’t agree always with Bill Reid, but you don’t publicly embarrass people. She tried to censure him (Johnston), she was not respectful.”

Bauer said that Alpers was contradicting himself on this issue.

“At both candidate nights, Mr. Alpers commented that he agreed with me on supporting management salaries,” she said. “He has said in the past, ‘I completely agree with people getting paid for what they are worth.’

“Supervisor Johnston was urged by myself to create an agenda item to address these issues without singling out individual employees. He failed to do that and continued a pattern that, over the course of more than a year, degraded county staff morale. With a 4-1 vote, Johnston was in a clear minority. In my world, respect must be earned, and for 13 months I gave Johnston the benefit of the doubt and my respect, then concluded I just needed to fix the problem with a vote.”

Another issue that has popped up in District 3 harkens back to an old event that some voters brought to the Mammoth Times’ attention recently.

It concerns a decision Alpers made when he was a county supervisor in 1995. At that time, Alpers was still running his Alpers Trout business and was a contractor with the county, selling the county thousands of pounds of trout every year.

At the time, Paul Rowen returned from supervisor school—a required training session for newly elected supervisors—and told the board he thought Alpers might have a conflict of interest that could come back to haunt the board.

“It was in the middle of my term in 1995 and one of the supervisors, Paul Rowan, said he believed I might have a conflict of interest being a contractor with the county and being on the board,” Alpers said. “So I asked county counsel, Jim Reid and Neil McCarroll, and they researched it. They told me I was clear.
According to Alpers, some of the supervisors then followed it up with the Attorney General’s office, which reversed county counsel’s decision. Alpers was told he had to chose between being a supervisor and being a contractor to the county.

“I was caught in the middle,” Alpers said. “I got pressure from my colleagues. They were concerned about what would happen if they lost the contract for the fish. But I had some things I was working on at the board level that there was no way I was going to abandon and the county found the fish somewhere. I didn’t run for re-election then. It was a big deal.”

Before Alpers decided to run for the District 3 seat this year, he abandoned his involvement with the fish business so as not to repeat the same mistake.

“I avoided this completely by relinquishing my interest in Inland Aquaculture Group last year when I decided to run for this post,” he said. “I am now completely divested from the group.”

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