Undersheriff retired but stays on payroll
Nevada County Undersheriff John Trauner retired in December 2006 and is drawing his retirement benefits while continuing to earn an undersheriff’s pay at an hourly rate totaling about $8,700 a month, officials said.
Sheriff Keith Royal expects Trauner to stay on the job until the end of this year, when he hopes to find a suitable replacement for the second-in-command position at the Sheriff’s Department.
“I hope (Trauner) will stay toward the end of the year,” Royal said. “He’s a great mentor to everybody.”
Trauner said he wanted to retire in his early 50s to have a “life after retirement,” a commitment he made to his family. Trauner and his wife, Dana, have three grown daughters and a 15-year-old son.
Working on an hourly basis following retirement – effectively collecting two paychecks – is known as “double dipping” by some critics. The practice is common in Nevada County.
Trauner is earning about $8,000 a month in retirement pay, in addition to his undersheriff’s pay of about $8,700 a month.
Former District Attorney Mike Ferguson retired in January but is expected to work at the District Attorney’s office through the end of this month. Ferguson is receiving the pay of a deputy district attorney while collecting retirement, which is less than what he was earning as the county’s district attorney.
Another prominent law enforcement officer, Nevada City Police Chief Lou Trovato, is also working full-time while collecting retirement from his job with the Los Angeles Police Department.
A Nevada County undersheriff’s salary range is $7,182 to $8,767 per month, according to information from the county personnel department. Trauner said he earns the higher range.
Trauner said there’s also no longer an opportunity for promotion: The next sheriff’s election is in 2010.
“It’s a difficult job to leave,” Trauner said. “I’m passionate about what I do.”
He said his father, former Nevada County Auditor-Controller John T. Trauner, taught him about staying power. He was hired in 1948 and remained on the job for 32 years.
“My dad, who is the single greatest hero in my life, gave me a lot of guidance,” Trauner said. “He said once you get a job, stick with it, make a career out of it, and there’s also a life after retirement.”
Trauner was hired on as a deputy in March 1976 and worked his way up the ranks to assistant sheriff in 1996 under former Sheriff Troy Arbaugh.
Royal chose Trauner to be his undersheriff over another applicant for the job.
Royal said his decision to keep Trauner on is beneficial to taxpayers, who would normally have to pay into a salaried undersheriff’s benefits.
“You can use a retiree in a variety of capacities,” Royal said. “This is a good thing. It’s saving the county a great deal of money. With an annuitant, you don’t pay them the benefit package.”
Trauner said taxpayers will also save on the costs of special stipend packages paid to deputies on salary.
Nevada County is a member of the Public Employees Retirement System, and retirement benefits for public safety employees – 3 percent of salary multiplied by years of service – are provided at the age of 50.
Trauner, 52, has been working for the county for 31 years.
Royal said he urged Trauner to stay past retirement because his office is undergoing several changes, including the recent retirement of Captains Ken Duncan and Mike Hanson. He needs Trauner to ease the transitions, he said.
Former Nevada County Sheriff’s Lieutenants Ron Smith and Tom Carrington were promoted Jan. 1 to fill the open captain positions, while the lieutenant positions were filled by former sergeants Richard Kimball and Frank Koehler. Their positions will be filled later this month by Detective Jeff Pettitt and south county School Resource Officer Rich Fevinger.
The undersheriff’s skill set is valuable to a sheriff’s office with a relatively young administrative staff, Royal said.
“Keith made what I think is an appropriate decision,” Trauner said. “He wanted another year’s experience under their (administration staff) belts so he could better choose who to promote.”
Royal said he will promote either a captain or lieutenant from within his department to replace Trauner when he leaves, most likely near the end of 2007.
To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail robynm@the union.com or call 477-4236. To contact Readership Editor Dixie Redfearn, e-mail dixier@theunion .com or call 477-4238.
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