Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May 15, 2012 Morristown City Councilmembers "Officially" Give Themselves Extra Pay in New Pay Ordinance

Today, the City Council will have a second and final reading on a new pay ordinance to replace the old pay ordinance that ties councilmembers pay to that of county commissioners.  Currently, councilmembers get $400/month just like county commissioners plus councilmembers can join the city insurance plan just like commissioners can join the county insurance plan. The Mayor gets an extra $300/month for a total of $700/month, and the County Commission Chair gets an extra $350/month for a total of $750/month.

In addition to their salary, councilmembers have also been giving themselves a Christmas bonus. The Christmas bonus has been a $50 check plus a $25 pay supplement plus longevity pay of $5/year of service.  County Commissioners do not give themselves a Christmas bonus or supplement or longevity pay.

Currently, the largest Christmas bonuses go to the City Council's senior members Kay Senter and Claude Jinks. Senter's "bonus" is around $170 and Jinks's is around $160 or so.

Gene Brooks, who was elected to Council in 2009, has returned all his Christmas bonuses/pay supplements/longevity pay to the City (taxpayers). Gene also obtained a legal opinion on this type of "extra pay" from senior MTAS (Municipal Technical Advisory Service) attorney Sid Hemsley.

Hemsley opined that Christmas bonuses and extra pay for the Mayor and councilmembers were not authorized.  Public money, of course, has to be spent for a public purpose.  An elected official's  salary for doing his job is for a public purpose. But just what is the "public purpose" in an elected official voting to give himself a bonus?

Like Brooks, Mayor Danny Thomas, who was elected in 2011, returned his Christmas bonus to the City (taxpayers).

After Brooks got the MTAS opinion, he asked that all the other councilmembers return the Christmas bonuses that they gave themselves. That didn't happen.  Instead of returning the bonuses to the taxpayers or stopping the practice, the other councilmembers decided to keep the bonuses and change the council pay ordinance to include all the extra pay that they have been taking.

When you want to keep that bonus money and you get to make the law, just change the law to suit you!

And changing the law to suit them is this Morristown City Council's specialty---from Councilman LeBel's takeover of the Mayor's Office by soliciting signatures from other councilmembers (Senter, Garrett, and Bivens) outside a public meeting, to the McGuffin Law, and now, changing council's pay ordinance to make sure those Christmas bonuses keep coming in.

Brooks and Mayor Thomas were the only ones to vote against the new "bonus" ordinance on first reading on May 1.  Senter, Jinks, Garrett, LeBel, and Bivens voted to pass the new "bonus" ordinance.

The Five also indicated that they would keep taking the bonuses/extra pay for the rest of their terms while they wait for the new pay ordinance to go into effect in May 2015. 

Yep, the current pay ordinance doesn't provide for any type of bonus/supplemental pay/longevity pay but the five councilmembers have been taking that extra money for years and they are going to keep taking that extra money until the new pay ordinance that does provide for supplemental pay/longevity pay--that won't be called bonuses any more--goes into effect.  It makes perfect sense.

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