County Pay Increases
By Alex Saitta
May 11, 2017
I’ve been looking at county council meetings, pulling up the meeting agendas and reading the minutes of their meetings. A couple of times I saw an agenda item “Compensation Study” with words added like “Phase I or Phase II” or “Elected Officials”. The topic was mentioned in meetings, but no specifics were given. Votes were taken on the items and passed unanimously.
Reading the minutes, examining the agenda and watching the meetings, you’d have to Sherlock Holmes to figure out who was getting raises and how much. It is not surprising, no details were reported in the newspapers, because the items were brushed over at the meetings.
Realizing something was up, we emailed the county asking if and which county officials got raises and how much. Only then were the specifics revealed. The council raised their own annual pay from $10,000 to $12,000 a year. By the way, the councilmen get medical benefits too.
In contrast, school board members make $3,000 a year or $250 a month. I think $1,000 for two or three county council meetings a month is excessive and the council should now exercise some reason and vote to cut their pay by half.
Wouldn’t it be nice to just raise your right hand and give yourself a pay raise? No public body should be able to give themselves their own pay raises.
At the national level there is a saturation of information directed at the public. For instance, there were scores of articles written on why Ivanka Trump shouldn’t be wearing a necklace from jewelry line and tons of elected officials commenting on Hillary Clinton’s emails. At the local level, there is little. Do you have any idea what your city council is up to, for instance? It is incumbent on our local elected officials to tell us what they are doing and why. Without that, the people will be left in the dark, like they were on this issue of pay for elected county leaders.
If all this is hidden from the public, no telling how much they would pay themselves.
Instead of allowing elected officials to raise their own pay, each election when we are electing candidates for county office, the public should determine the pay levels for each office. This notion the councilmen determine their own pay is crazy.
We also uncovered the county council raised the pay of the following elected officials: Sheriff: $110,901, Clerk of Court: $96,218, Probate Judge: $71,642, Treasurer: $71,416, Auditor: $59,402 and Coroner: $58,439. They were not just giving cost of living raises either. It was a broad based increase for the officials. One was given a 38% pay raise, another 22%, another 17%.
While some of those pay levels and increases seem excessive, that isn’t my issue. My issue is with the process or lack of transparency. This is all public information, yet this information was not publicly presented and discussed at the time of the vote, and not one councilmen told those in attendance what was actually going on. They all just quietly raised their right hands and approved these figures that we later uncovered.
Any councilman can request this or that be added in the minutes (including elected officials’ pay raises). Yet these figures were not in the minutes either. The next time, hopefully, a councilman who believes in government transparency will list these raises at the vote and then request they be part of the meeting minutes, so the public will know what the council is really up to when it comes to raising their pay and that of other elected officials.