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L.A. County exec proposes big pay hike to lure new probation leader

October 20, 2011 |  4:16 pm

Los Angeles County Chief Executive William T. Fujioka proposed a significant pay hike Tuesday to lure Jerry Powers to be the next probation chief.

Powers, now probation chief in Stanislaus County, would earn a base salary of $255,000 under Fujioka's proposal -- $28,000 more than his predecessor, Donald H. Blevins, who was hired last year after years of working at larger agencies.

"Given [Power's] experience and reputation as an innovator, his leadership of realignment implementation across California, and the respect that he has at the highest levels statewide, coupled with the size and scope of challenges before him in one of the nation’s largest probation systems, my salary recommendation is appropriate," Fujioka said in a prepared statement. 

In an interview, Powers said: "I’m not going to relocate my family to Los Angeles and undertake a job with this level of responsibility for less. I know what I'm getting is what I needed to come down and do the job."

The five members of the Board of Supervisors, who will consider Fujioka's proposal Tuesday, declined immediate comment.

Powers now supervises a department with 250 employees in the state's northern Central Valley. As head of the state's association of probation chiefs, he has developed a reputation for having keen political acumen and a strong working relationship with the governor and lawmakers.

In Los Angeles County, he would face a major challenge. The department's 6,200 staffers oversee 60,000 adult probationers and 20,000 youths, including about 3,600 in county-run detention halls and camps. The juvenile operation has been the subject of U.S. Justice Department oversight for misuse of force, and county supervisors have criticized persistent management lapses.

The investigation by the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division grew out of a 2000 report issued by the Los Angeles County Grand Jury, which uncovered substandard conditions and overmedicated youths. In recent reports, investigators found that more than 2,000 youth offenders in 19 detention camps were still imperiled by broken systems for providing mental health services, suicide prevention and transition services upon release, and that the department lacked sufficient use of force and internal affairs policies.

The county faces a deadline this month for meeting the terms of the federal review. If it fails, the county could lose operating control of the probation department and its budget.

"I think that everybody has a very high interest in satisfying the feds," Powers said. "I know there is a high sense of urgency, but until I get there, I can’t put a timeline on it."


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-- Garrett Therolf at the Hall of Administration

Photo: Los Angeles County Chief Executive William T Fujioka listens to speakers at a Board of Supervisors meeting on June 21, 2011. Credit: Bob Chamberlin/ Los Angeles Times