WatchSonoma Watch

Dole announces retirement

Rod Dole


Rod Dole, the longtime Sonoma County auditor, controller, treasurer and tax collector, announced his retirement Tuesday a month after being sworn in to office for his seventh term.

Dole, 58, said the decision was prompted by family health issues.

“My wife and I have been dealing with some health issues. They seem to be resolved now. It’s a good time to enjoy ourselves and take some time for ourselves,” he said Tuesday.

After he retires May 31, Dole will collect a pension equal to his $208,649 annual salary .

Hired as an auditor 35 years ago, Dole worked his way up to audit manager before he was appointed auditor/controller in 1985 after his predecessor suffered a heart attack in office. Dole was elected the following year and has been in office ever since, running opposed only one time. In 2006, a consolidation also added the duties of treasurer and tax collector.

Dole said that about a week or 10 days ago he quietly informed members of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors individually of his intent to leave.

Supervisors praised him Tuesday and said he will missed.

“There’s no question he’s been a stalwart public official and a very proud part of the county family. The guy really does live and breathe Sonoma County,” said Board Chairman Efren Carrillo.

“We’ll be losing a Superman basically,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane.

“He is absolutely stellar and incredible,” she said. “And while I’m not surprised about the announcement of his retirement, it’s disappointing to just have him leave the county family, given all of the incredible work he’s done.”

County Administrator Veronica Ferguson said he had been discussing retirement with county officials before making his decision.

“He’s been thinking about this for a while,” she said.

Public employee pensions and salaries have come under increasing scrutiny from taxpayers. But Dole defended his pension and pay structure.

“I don’t know what a CFO (Chief Financial Officer) for a three-billion-plus asset company (makes) out there. I know it’s higher than $200,000-plus,” he said.

Dole is a board member of the Sonoma County Employees’ Retirement Association, which oversees the county employee pension system.

“I’ve really enjoyed my career with the county. It’s been a very rewarding career and money was secondary,” he said. “I didn’t stay with it for the money, or pension, although I’m very grateful.”

Zane credited Dole with being “the brain” behind the county Energy Independence Program that allows homeowners to make energy efficiency home improvements and pay for them over 20 years on their property tax bills.

While supervisors were complimentary, Dole’s office did come in for criticism last year from some property owners upset that they had not been notified sooner when a property manager in Sonoma Valley failed to make tax payments on their behalf.

Dole’s tentative May 31 retirement date gives county officials some time to consider their options on an immediate replacement, Ferguson said.

One possibility that supervisors may study in the coming months is whether to consolidate Dole’s four titles — auditor, controller, treasurer and tax collector — into one director-of-finance position. That post would be appointed by supervisors instead of elected by voters, Ferguson said.

The change would have to be approved by voters, a step that could come as late as four years from now, since Dole was just re-elected in June.

If such a move is explored by supervisors, Dole’s position could be filled for the near-term on an interim basis, Ferguson said.

Dole said he has recommended his assistant, Donna Dunk, to be his replacement.

“It’s premature for me to say at this point which direction the board will choose,” Carrillo said. “The options are known but we haven’t had that discussion yet.”

37 Responses to “Dole announces retirement”

  1. No real news here says:

    The Sonoma County Retirement system isn’t broken like the rest. This unfunded liability junk is smoke and mirrors. The retirees receive their payments from the combination of their contribution, the county contirbution and the interest earned. It is not a pool system. It is the closest thing to an individual account. Idiots will look at a 10 year period and apply a savings account interest rate and go chicken little on you. These funds are still earning great rates. Was it 4% of the last 10 years? No duh Sherlock. Was it 9.3% including the last 10 years? Duh. Give it 5 years and see who looks stupid. Can’t wait five years? Then don’t get near an investment, you have no clue. As for chicken little, bite my interest rate, over 60% in the last 12 months. Thats where the money is at and if you say different, enjoy your social security.
    Good luck Bob, enjoy your well deserved retirement. Thank you for your service.

  2. Tom Lynch says:

    I join retired former Information Technology Department Head Mark Walsh in lauding retiring Auditor Rod Dole for the mentioned achievements. The jury is still out on Rod’s $600 Million of Pension Obligation Bonds however. After last summer’s $300 Million POB was fastracked through the County, we now have by far the highest bonded indebtness per capita, of any of the 58 Counties in the State of California.

    Congratulations to Mark also on his new position as the appointed Auditor of Marin County. It must feel great, after retiring from 25 years of service to Sonoma County (at the age of 50), to land another great job making over $200K/year!

    As to the dig on the Press Democrat, I sing their praises daily for their reporting on the pension debacle. Not a story, not “actual news”? This is the issue of the day; there used to be 4400 workers at Sonoma County, now there are more retirees than active workers, 3800 retirees to 3400 actives, a loss of 1000 positions. And, Sonoma County is poised to lay off hundreds more of our younger, less senior public servants; mostly rank and file line workers. If trends continue in four years there will be almost 5000 retirees and less than 3000 County workers.

    Mark and Rod, I admire and respect both of you for all the good things you’ve done and are doing, but you both share some responsibility for this pension mess and now your retired. A simple apology along with a plan to fix things and all is forgiven :).

  3. Mark Walsh says:

    Rod Dole was the most successful Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax-Collector in the State of California. Here’s what he did that others didn’t:

    1) Created the nationally recognized property assessed clean energy (PACE) program that brought jobs to labor and businesses in Sonoma County, while reducing dependency on big oil. YES!

    2) Saved every County’s tax dollars when the State of CA made their big property tax grab. Rod Dole wrote most of the legislative changes to property taxes and protected local control of taxes more than any other auditor-controller in the state. YES!

    3) Rod Dole created a program to audit taxing districts more frequently, by his staff, than any other auditor-controller in the State of CA. YES!

    My hat is off to Rod Dole, thanking him for being the best auditor-controller in the State of CA.

    If the Press Democrat can get out of the chair, and do some actual reporting, after gathering some real comparable data, and going deep enough to learn something that actual “news,” I’d love to read it.

  4. Beef King says:

    If we are paying him, Mr. Dole should remain on the job until he has fixed the problems he has created.
    If the road to revenue hell is paved with good intentions, Mr. Dole has been driving the ashpalt delivery truck.
    He is a good guy with good ideas that were destroyed by financial realities that he should not have ignored.
    His attempt to mix government and private sector lending practices have produced disastrous results for the citizens of this county, and Mr. Dole should make sure he cleans up his mess before he goes.

  5. Gary says:

    The post by “Soon to be Laid Off” said Mr. Dole received a 10% pay raise in his last year (2010). Excuse me?

    The SCERA Board is responsible for managing the risks in the pension plan. Their mismanagement of those risks is the main reason the county is in the position it is today.

    Mr. Dole is on the board of SCERA and, given his area of expertise, is one of the few people that is most responsible for the pension problem we now face.

    In a corporation, financial risk management is the responsibility of the Treasury department. Mr. Dole was the Treasurer. He deserved no raise. Perhaps a demotion was more in order.

    Beware of politicians patting Mr. Dole on the back for a job well done. You have to ask: Do politicians really know what they’re talking about or is there some other reason why they are patting Mr. Dole on the back and giving him a 10% raise in 2010?

    To be fair, nobody else saw this perfect storm of pension problems coming…so we can see why the Board failed. But the bottom line is they failed, thus they should be held accountable.

  6. Just Me says:

    My W-2 says I made $30,000 last year as a retiree of Sonoma County. So glad I’m so highly overpaid for my 25 yrs of service.

  7. GAJ says:

    Those of you who think that this guy deserves more per year in retirement than the Governor does while working are living in a fairy tale land where the bucket of gold never runs out.

    You all don’t seem to understand that it is lower tier government employees who will face the ax and/or benefit cuts while the taxpayer can always just up and leave this out of its mind County (and State for that matter). The true impact of the madness exacerbated by the move to 3%/year in 1999 when Davis was trying to buy votes has yet to be felt.

    From yesterday’s PD Editorial”

    “For Sonoma County, the cost has more than tripled in the past 10 years, not including annual payments on roughly $600 million in debt from pension bonds.

    Turmoil in the stock market is one reason costs have mushroomed. Another reason is retroactive benefit increases that allow workers to retire younger while qualifying for far larger pensions than previous generations of public employees.

    Six-figure pensions (and 100-percent-of-pay pensions) are a relatively recent phenomenon, but the numbers are growing fast. So are average benefits. The average annual pension for state employees who retired with 30 years service in 2008-09 was $65,000, the Contra Costa Times recently reported. That’s more than double the $27,000 average for all state retirees routinely cited by the California Public Employees Retirement System.

    Dole stands to collect about $1 million in retirement pay in just five years. That’s almost certainly is more than he paid into the system over 35 years.

    The system isn’t sustainable. It must be fixed.”


  8. Reality Check says:


    What has Dole got to do with the salary of a corporate CEO? He’s an auditor/controller. The positions aren’t remotely close in responsibility.

    This is about whether a public employee should receive a pension of 100%, especially one that hasn’t been properly funded.

  9. Michael Sheehan says:

    @Tom Drumm

    Your statement “Corporate CEO’s make 100 times what Rod Dole does in bonuses alone” is a broad generalization as nonsensical as claiming “All Asians are bad drivers.” Sure, a small percentage make millions, but many CEOS make FAR LESS than than what Mr. Dole will receive. In addition, most private companies (at least those not involved with government contracts) do not use tax dollars to pay high salaries and very generous pensions. That is the primary issue, that taxpayers are partially footing the bill.

  10. Tom Lynch says:

    @ Tom Drumm (SEIU Service Employee International Union representative)

    Hi Tom…still looking forward to that lunch.

    Corporate CEO’s making 100 times Rod Dole aside; the problem Tom is a year from now Sonoma County may have 1000 fewer employees than we did eight years ago. The struggle isn’t against our public servants, it is toward protecting the jobs of younger County workers and the services Sonoma County used to provide.

    http://www.scretire.com/pdf/documents/annrpt09.pdf (page 73)

    2002-4,444 active workers
    http://www.scretire.com/pdf/documents/annrpt09.pdf (page 13)

    2009/2010 Final Budget-3763
    Sonoma County considers cutting 500 jobs
    2010/2011 Proposed layoffs of 350-500 workers…3263-3413 active workers

    In the real world these pension promises are woefully underfunded; with the only way to pay for them is by laying off more and more of our younger less senior workers, while not rehiring positions of those that retire. Most of the jobs lost are rank and file line workers Tom, those you have so well represented in previous years.

    There are now more retirees than active workers at the County; with retirement contributions many times that of the private sector. With the inclusion of the recent $300 Million Pension Obligation Bond ($550 Million total), Sonoma County now has by far the highest per capita bonded indebtedness of all 58 Counties in the State of California.


    Without an active engagement of SEIU and other union heads to R-E-F-O-R-M the system, we will see a huge loss of union jobs in Sonoma County. Many of our County workforce will join the ranks of the unemployed as we all suffer the loss of their services.

    These mythic 8% returns are folklore; and theoretical market rates of return are no substitute for inadequate contributions. If all the taxpayers in Sonoma County were to realize and compare what the salaries and benefits are for County workers…especially the upper tier…I think there would be a mob outside the County offices reminiscent of an old Frankenstein movie. Thus far our elected representatives have failed miserably reforming the system from within; we are approaching a time where citizens have to reform our local government from without (ballot measure).

    p.s. Congratulations to Rod Dole on his retirement; looking forward to working with a new auditor toward making the system more sustainable…

  11. Will He ? says:

    Is he also taking the $20,000 the County is giving all employees if they retire before 7/1/11 ?

  12. NOTUTOO says:

    @Reality Check…I’m talking about premiums he’ll pay when retired. I don’t think he’ll pay a dime as it is my belief that County Supervisors and Department Heads have Their premiums paid for 100% for life, unlike the employees who, upon retirement will receive $500 per month.

  13. Tom Drumm says:

    Corporate CEO’s make 100 times what Rod Dole does in bonuses alone. Give me a break.

  14. Reality Check says:


    According to the state controller’s stats, county taxpayers paid $11,000+ for Dole’s health plan last year. So, the claim he paid “a ton” in health premiums would seem to be in doubt.

    But, I learned not to take everything said on these threads as the absolute truth.

  15. NOTUTOO says:

    @bear…Are Department heads and Supervisors paying into their health plans? I thought they were in the 100% for life club?

  16. bear says:

    You too can retire with Rod Dole’s pension! Here’s how:

    Invent a time machine and go back 35 years to when there were no computers – maybe pocket calculators? Use the calculator to crunch critical numbers using one finger.

    Get all required degrees and certifications and keep them current at all times.

    Be seriously involved in every budget every year, including the years following Prop. 13.

    Make sure you keep the Board of Supervisors, all departments and the public reasonably happy at all times.

    Run for re-election every four years. If you lose, you’re gone. Not a lot of job security? Maybe get out of the elective office part, but realize that all public sector managers everywhere serve “at the pleasure” of elected officials.

    Do this continuously for 30+ years. The 3% at 60 formula can be better understood as “3% per year served” with pension based on highest salary year, which is usually the last year of employment. You’ve got to serve 10 years to be eligible. Less time beyond the ten means way less pension.

    Do NOT die young, because survivor benefits are way less than employee benefits.

    Realize that budgets and pensions are dependent on performance of the markets and the overall economy, which you can’t control. So there will be good years and bad, and public/political reactions to both.

    BTW did you know that PERS made 11% last quarter?

    Be prepared to pay a ton in health insurance premiums both while employed and after retirement. Your premiums will likely exceed your mortgage, if they don’t already. And of course, if anyone gets really sick your health insurance is unlikely to cover all costs (just like everyone else).

    In your golden years, sit around and worry that the public (who are really angry with others, not you) may reduce your pension and/or Social Security and/or Medicare. Or decide that you’re not owed any health insurance at all. Sonoma County is well on the way to doing this.

    Still, you’ll always know inside that you did a great job for a long time, no matter what it cost you.

    Good luck, Rod!

  17. Reality Check says:


    Yes, democracy is not a spectator sport. A public that doesn’t pay attention is asking to be governed badly, and we have been.

    Still, when inter-generational promises are made, which is what we have here, don’t be surprised when the generation stuck with paying the bill protests.

    Worse, for me anyway, is the attitude of some (most?) public employees. Rather than recognized that 75-100% pensions are not sustainable under the current funding formula, they act like spoiled children.

    Anyway, America has lived beyond her means for several decades. Some unpleasant adjustments are long overdue, like it or not.

  18. Michael Sheehan says:

    @Bob Saco

    Your anger should also be directed at the Federal Government, which passed the Community Reinvestment Act. This act basically threatened banks and lenders and forced them to provide more loans to low-income people in lousy neighborhoods, or else. So the Wall Street scam artists one-upped the Feds by providing absurd liar loans to people who had no business owning a home because they could not afford it. Like many well-intentioned government programs that end up doing the exact opposite of what the politicians and bureaucrats claim it would (i.e., War on Poverty, War on Drugs), the CRA helped wreck the economy.

  19. tom says:


    Greed is good (for government workers)

  20. Bob Sacomano says:

    I hear ya reality check, but why knock the public employees for the voters’ lack of understanding of deals made by people they voted for. Even if I didn’t understand that It will actually cost me almost a million dollars to pay off a $300,000 mortgage, I have no one but myself to blame for signing on the dotted line once the truth becomes clear. And all of these retirement deals are negotiated in good faith and rightfully, the employees try to get a good a deal as possible. If everyone still had value in their houses and could use that equity to fund their retirements, as I believe most people were counting on, no one would care what Dole’s pension is. Anyway, my anger is still focused on the ones who intentionally set up markets (like housing) to collapse, and profited from it. I’d bet not many local government employees are raking in 8-9 figures.

  21. Reality Check says:

    //It’s a little late to complain about guys like Dole, who made life decisions 35 years ago based on agreements made with our public officials.//

    Thirty-five years ago Sonoma County did not offer 3%@60 pensions. Maybe 2%@60, I’m not sure. Along the way, the formula was bumped up by politicians willing to make promises (in return for votes) the price of which no one understood well and the bill wouldn’t come due for a long, long time.

    The bill is just now coming due and the full price is finally being understood.

  22. Don't even try says:

    Don’t bother… They have max numbers stuck in their head. Only 2 to 5% get that, but it is their mantra..

  23. Bob Sacomano says:

    Yes, the government workers are getting a pretty good deal. But it’s been this way for a long time. Why are people just now starting to complain about it? Don’t blame the government workers, blame the bankers and other wall street morons that ruined the economy and put us all into a position where we had to scrutinize other peoples’ pensions. The government employees made these deals a long time ago with people we voted for. It’s a little late to complain about guys like Dole, who made life decisions 35 years ago based on agreements made with our public officials. Would have been better if Dole had decided to work for Goldman Sachs and was going to use a $50 million golden parachute to fund his retirement after giving NOTHING to the public?

  24. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Reality Check…I’m assuming you meant 2009-10 budget. And I did see where Salaries and Benefits did average about $125,000. However, that includes Public Safety, which tends to throw off the numbers. Again, I was talking about the MAJORITY of NON-PUBLIC SAFETY employees, where benefits are more likely around 35% of salary. I did look at the State Controller web site for Sonoma County, and I think it proves my point… Account Clerk II: $38,110-$46,334, Account Clerk III: $42,013-$51,092, Accounting Tecnician: $44,497-$54,098, Ag Biologist\Standard Spec I: $42,326-$51,426, etc. Sure, there are many above that range, but the majority seem to fall pretty close to what I said.

  25. Soon to Be Laid of County Worker and Bankrupt Taxpayer says:

    2009/2010 Fiscal Year (7/31/2009-7/31/2010)

    Dole, Rodney A.

    Reg. Earnings 194,541.36
    *Excess Life 265.96
    Mlg Reimb 2,470.69
    Auto Allowance 8,352
    Cash Allow 7,203.60
    Vac. Buyback 13,315.20
    Total Earnings 227,148.81
    Fica 9,995.30
    401(A) 9,727.07
    Stndrd Ltd 1,995.75
    Ret Gen POB 11,247.86
    Gen POB Intr 3,094.89
    UI Reg 494.72
    Reg Ret HI 17,556.99
    Co Ret Gen 37252.11
    Wkrs Comp 3,192.25
    Vision Care 208.91
    Umempl Ins 28.63
    County Health 6,002.48
    Dental Ins. 1,237.79
    Total Benefits 102,034.75

    Total Salary & Benefits $329,183.56

    Sonoma County Retirement includes for “highest salary year” Auto Allowance, Cash Allowance, Vacation Buyback, AND it appears the 401(a) as well.

    Rod Doles’ final salary year as of 7/31/2011 would be $234,139. Also Mr. Dole accepted a 10% raise that will add to his “final highest salary year” end of “calendar year” 12/31/2010 plus whatever he is able to add or spike to his salary this last half of the fiscal year to 6/31/2011.

    In all likelihood Mr. Dole’s retirement if one includes the medical, will be in excess of $250,000, and when he is old enough he’ll get social security as well..

  26. rb says:

    It seems excessive but 35 years is a long time.
    I live in a world where there is no company pension the company matches 401k contrib but to a max of 6%.

  27. Reality Check says:

    //. . .non-safety government employees in Sonoma County probably earn around $40,000 – $60,000. . .//

    Your numbers are almost certainly low. Scan the state controller’s web site listing of county salaries to see for yourself. And the county’s 2000-10 budget indicates salaries plus fringe benefits averaged $125,000 per employee. Yep, that number is accurate.

    Yes, highly-paid county employees can often find even higher salaries in the private sector, but only at a steep price–loss of job security and the expectation that they work far longer hours, with fewer holidays, etc.

    There’s a reason why job turnover in public employment is low.

  28. Lets be Reasonable says:

    100% of his government salary… A similar job in the private sector would easily pay whole lot more, and would probably include a very generous 401k plan and bonuses. Government salaries have gained on the private sector recently, but have traditionally paid much less. The salary structure for government positions tend to be more compressed than in the private sector; if you compare the highest paid employee to the lowest, you will see something like 8:1 in government, whereas in the private sector it has ballooned to something like 100:1. This means that the lowest paid public employees tend to be better paid than comparable positions in the private sector, but as you move up the chain to more technical and management positions, then you will find that the private sector pays better – often MUCH better. Public Safety folks don’t really have comparable positions in the private sector, and it is often their salaries/pensions that you hear about. The majority of non-safety government employees in Sonoma County probably earn around $40,000 – $60,000, and after contributing anywhere from 8-15% of their salary towards retirement for 30 years, they can expect to get something like 75%-90% of their salary in retirement, or $30,000 – $54,000 a year. I’m sorry, that just doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.

  29. Reality Check says:

    //During that entire 35 years, he has been paying into the pension system. //

    Whatever Dole’s contributions, they don’t come close to funding a 100% pension for a 58-year-old male. Add in the taxpayer’s contributions and his pension remains underfunded by a wide margin, even assuming optimistic investment returns in the future.

    That funding gap will be covered by tomorrow’s taxpayers.

  30. Greg Karraker says:

    Never mind that Rod Deal is retiring 8 years before the current retirement age for all those poor citizens who are hoping to receive Social Security.

    Let’s assume he enjoys 25 golden years of retirement. This amounts to $5,000,000 in pension payments going to one public servant and his family. The real question is how much of this pension will have been funded by his own contributions, and how much will be paid from my property taxes every year. This number should be available to everyone, so that the county can never again make such a sloppy agreement.

    I hope Mr. Dole’s successor, Ms. Dunk, does not receive the same inflated pension agreement. It would be unbearable to see my future property taxes going to Dole and Dunk.

  31. Public EE says:

    Dole will be recieving a 100% pension because he has been employeed with the County for 35 years. During that entire 35 years, he has been paying into the pension system.

    Not many CFO’s receive that good of pension – maybe. I believe they probably get a large lump sum upon retirement, but since it’s private, we don’t really know. Most CFO’s do not work for one company for 35 years, and pay into the pension system for the entire time either.

  32. Michael Sheehan says:

    Mr. Dole cannot be blamed, as he is merely benefitting from a ludicrous government retirement system. A pension that provides 100% of a high salary AND allows the person to retire at age 58 is one sweet deal, unless you are a taxpayer who gets partially stuck with the bill.

    As a 50-something CEO at a private corporation, I know I’ll be working into my 60s, and no agency is going to provide a $200,000 retirement. It’s not about Dole, it’s about the crazy tax-subsidized system.

  33. Dogs Rule says:

    One of these days, I am going to understand how you get on the government payroll for life and get $200K beginning at age 58. The government is a very luxurious employer.

  34. Chris says:

    This guy has a better pension than most Fortune 500 CEO’s.

  35. Real realithy says:

    The Sonoma County Retirement system isn’t broken like the rest. This unfunded liability junk is smoke and mirrors. The retirees receive their payments from the combination of their contribution, the county contirbution and the interest earned. It is not a pool system. It is the closest thing to an individual account. Idiots will look at a 10 year period and apply a savings account interest rate and go chicken little on you. These funds are still earning great rates. Was it 4% of the last 10 years? No duh Sherlock. Was it 9.3% including the last 10 years? Duh. Give it 5 years and see who looks stupid. Can’t wait five years? Then don’t get near an investment, you have no clue. As for chicken little, bite my interest rate, over 60% in the last 12 months. Thats where the money is at and if you say different, enjoy your social security.
    Good luck Bob, enjoy your well deserved retirement. Thank you for your service.

  36. Doug says:

    I’m not sure I see the logic in this. Maybe it’s the new fuzzy math. I’m sure Dole did a crackerjack of a job during his tenure, but I fail to understand how the county of Sonoma can justify a pension of 100%.

    I’m obviously in the wrong profession.

  37. Reality Check says:

    It’s hard not to see the wisdom of retiring when one’s pension benefit is 100%. I wish Dole and his family well. Still, political leaders need to confront the issue of whether anyone, however good a public “servant,” should receive a pension of 100%.