For the first time in four years, California's Citizens Compensation Commission is scheduled to vote this month on whether to raise the pay of lawmakers and statewide elected officials.
Commission Chairman Tom Dalzell said Monday that he will ask the panel whether some or all of the cuts made to elected officials' salaries during the budget crisis should be restored.
Adding intrigue to the session, Dalzell recently asked for a legal opinion on whether there is a residency requirement for the panel and, if so, whether Commissioner John Stites meets the threshold.
The issue arose from Stites' recent disclosure that he bought a house in 2009 in Henderson, Nev., and now uses it as his primary residence. But he maintains a house in Los Angeles County, too, and spends weeks at a time there, he said.
"I go back and forth," Stites said.
With the June 19 meeting of the compensation commission fast approaching, Stites has fired back at Dalzell, claiming the chairman's request for a legal opinion is politically motivated.
"I'm a voice for reason they don't like that," Stites said, contending that opponents want to oust him either as a political vendetta or to increase prospects for hiking officials' pay.
The matter is being driven by Dalzell's Democratic handlers, Stites said, the "people who tell Dalzell what to do."
"Do I support raises? No," Stites said Monday. "This state has been in turmoil, and in my mind it will take three to five years to determine if it's on firm ground."
Thus the stage is set for this month's session of the seven-member commission at Sacramento City Hall, where Dalzell plans to cast a vote on restoring salary cuts only if the seven-member panel of gubernatorial appointees is deadlocked.
Besides Dalzell, the commission consists of three appointees of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and three of Brown's appointees most recently Democrat Anthony Barkett, named to the commission on May 24.
The governor's salary has dropped from $212,179 to $165,288 in the past four years. Lawmakers saw their pay fall from $116,208 to $90,526, their benefits reduced, and their lease-car program eliminated during the same period.
Though he plans to raise the issue of restoration, Dalzell said he has a "completely open mind" about whether it would be appropriate to rescind pay cuts so soon after California's budget crisis.
Dalzell said he referred questions about Stites' residency to the commission's attorney and expects the Governor's Office to be contacted as well.
Dalzell said he made the request in response to media reports of Stites' Nevada residency, not because of any political vendetta.
"He certainly is quick to see handlers and conspirators where they don't exist," Dalzell said of Stites, a retired sheriff's sergeant appointed to the commission in April 2009 by Schwarzenegger.
"I've had nothing to do with it other than the issue was raised, and I referred it," Dalzell said.
"I like having (Stites) on the board," he added. "And I don't have a political agenda. He's a really interesting person. As far as I know, everything that he's ever earned came from the public sector, and his pension is coming from the public sector. He brings a valuable perspective."
Stites listed a Nevada post office box as his mailing address in financial disclosure statements filed with California's Fair Political Practices Commission in March.
Proposition 112, the 1990 ballot measure that created the compensation commission, does not specifically say that appointees must reside in California.
But a provision of California's government code says that "a person is incapable of holding a civil office if at the time of his election or appointment he is not 18 years of age and a citizen of the state."
Stites said he does not plan to step down absent a clear legal mandate.
"All I've gotten are emails from people I know who are telling me to stay put," he said.
Call Jim Sanders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5538. Follow him on Twitter @jwsanders55.