Some of North County’s special districts offer their chiefs some special pay, but recently workers launched efforts to check administrators’ powers at two of those agencies.

Union workers at Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside registered a ballot initiative to cap executive compensation at $250,000 and make salaries for the executives available on the hospital’s website.

The public spat between the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers labor union that represents 830 workers and public hospital’s administration has been going on since the union’s contract expired in March. Union members say they’re concerned about language in a proposed contract that would allow the hospital to outsource up to 460 jobs. After staging a few protests, the union now has taken up the ballot measure.

SEIU-UHW says it’s about making the hospital more accountable to taxpayers, where executive compensation far exceeds that of comparable public hospitals, like Grossmont Healthcare District.

The administration says they have no plan to outsource any positions.

According to the latest information from the State Controller’s Office, there were six administrators who had total wages greater than $250,000 in 2013. CEO Tim Moran alone pulled in $577,000.

Tri-City serves Oceanside, Carlsbad and Vista, and it will take 14,000 signatures to get the measure on November’s ballot. Sean Wherley, a spokesperson for SEIU-UHW, said the union will begin collecting signatures in January.

This is the first contract the union has negotiated with the hospital since Moran took up the position in 2014. The last contract with the union lasted three years, and was negotiated under former CEO Larry Anderson. Anderson was sacked in 2013, however, with a list of accusations coming from the hospital’s board of directors, although he was since been cleared, in part.

Yuima: Little Water, Big Money

At the Yuima Municipal Water District, in Pauma Valley, resident Roland Simpson is seeking election to the board of the district that serves about 350 customers.

While that alone might not draw attention from non-farmers outside the valley, Yuima – one of the smallest water districts in San Diego – has one of the top paid water managers in the county. In 2010, former Manager Linden Burzell made headlines for his $204,000 base salary. In 2013, he pulled in $333,467 in total compensation.

Simpson has long been a gadfly at Yuima board meetings, challenging the board on decisions to appeal a lawsuit the district lost, raise water rates, make appointments to vacant board seats. In general, he says the board has been on “auto-pilot,” approving requests made by the manager.

Burzell retired in October, after 11 years, and his replacement, Lori Johnson, opted not to take the lucrative salary and benefits. While he has confidence with Johnson running Yuima, he still has concerns about directors who don’t ask questions.

He’s challenging incumbent Mike Fitzsimmons for his seat on the board of directors, in a special election set for January.

He needed 36 signatures to qualify the special election, and got 53.

“We had such a hard time getting into those meetings to talk…we wanted to get in there to make a difference,” he said, about his decision to run an early election.

North County Arts

In this week’s Culture Report, Kinsee Morlan looks at the North County Artists Network, a nascent organization that wants to position North County as an alternative to San Diego’s arts scene.

So far the network has been…networking…and forming partnerships, but 2016 will be the time for establishing a formal organization.

Also in the News

• The United Way of San Diego announced Wednesday that its CEO, Kevin Crawford, was moving on to become the city manager of Carlsbad.

•  The first year-round homeless shelters recently opened in Escondido. (KPBS)

• The special election that will decide the fate of a luxury mall at the Agua Hedionda Lagoon has become a battleground for two mall owners, although most of the money is coming from one side. (Union-Tribune)

Carlsbad beaches are hurting for sand after recent high tides and surf. (Seaside Courier)

• Carlsbad signs its former fire chief as its new city manager. (Union-Tribune)

• Encinitas opts for funding more overtime for sheriff’s deputies, after a debate about hiring an additional deputy to cover the city. (Coast News)

• The I-5 widening project from La Jolla to Oceanside appears to be nearly shovel-ready. (Seaside Courier)

Ruarri Serpa is a freelance writer in Oceanside. Email him at and find him on Twitter at @RuarriS.

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