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State Controller John Chiang in middle of salary dispute

January 12, 2011 |  9:10 am

State Controller John Chiang could see his salary increase by $30,000 annually, to $169,743, depending on the action of a state board on which he sits.

Chiang is not commenting on whether he thinks he has a conflict of interest that might disqualify him from acting as one of three members of the state's Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board. The panel is meeting Jan. 20 to consider a claim by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) seeking to overturn a 2009 pay cut for all elected state officials, including Chiang.

But the state controller signaled that if he does vote, it may be against Cedillo's claim.

"I will reserve final judgment until I've had the opportunity to review staff's recommendation that the claim be rejected," Chiang said in a statement. "However, considering the sacrifices that all Californians will be asked to bear in order to restore the state's fiscal health, I personally believe that salary reductions for elected officials are necessary and justified."

The staff of the claims board has recommended that Cedillo's claim be denied, but not on the merits of his legal argument that the pay cut was approved illegally, according to Janice Mackey, a spokeswoman for the panel.

"The staff recommended that the Cedillo claim be denied because the issues presented are complex and outside the scope of analysis typically undertaken by the board," Mackey said. "The court system is better equipped to hear cases of this magnitude and provides for a better venue to hear witness testimony or receive evidence that some cases may require."

Cedillo has said he may file a lawsuit to challenge the power of a voter-approved citizens panel to reduce the salaries of sitting elected officials. Filing a claim with the state is a prerequisite for taking the matter to court.

-- Patrick McGreevy