Mayor’s salary de­creased

Ex­pe­ri­ence should de­ter­mine salary

The Times (Northeast Benton County) - - FRONT PAGE - ANNETTE BEARD

Mayor Jackie Crab­tree opened the June City Coun­cil meet­ing then turned the meet­ing over to City Clerk Sandy But­ton and stepped out of the room as the four coun­cil mem­bers dis­cussed Or­di­nance 618 to set the mayor’s salary for the com­ing term. This is an elec­tion year and the mayor’s seat is open for elec­tion.

“We have an or­di­nance on the books that says we’ll set the mayor’s salary in an elec­tion year,” But­ton said. “I’ve pre­pared the or­di­nance as we have ev­ery four years. It will start Jan. 1, 2019, and run through Dec. 31, 2022.

“This is the third time we’ve done this … be­cause you don’t know the ex­pe­ri­ence of the per­son who might run for the job,” But­ton re­minded coun­cil

mem­bers. “In Jan­uary, you can go back in and reeval­u­ate the per­son and the ex­pe­ri­ence of the per­son who does get the job and you can amend for what would be ap­pro­pri­ate for the per­son.”

Coun­cil mem­ber Bob Cot­ting­ham, who sup­ported re­duc­ing the mayor’s salary in 2014, said: “I have re­searched this. This has been a re­ally hot but­ton. I’ve got­ten lots of feed­back from cit­i­zens and busi­ness own­ers.

“It def­i­nitely gives the im­pres­sion of dis­cour­ag­ing any­one from run­ning,” Cot­ting­ham said, adding that he had talked to staff in the le­gal de­part­ment of the Arkansas Mu­nic­i­pal League who told him that al­though it is not il­le­gal, it is “ill ad­vised.”

But­ton re­sponded: “This was rec­om­mended to us by our city at­tor­ney at the time.

“This is not set in stone, this coun­cil will have the fi­nal say in Jan­uary or De­cem­ber when you de­cide to amend. When you hire some­body, you set their salary by their ex­pe­ri­ence, their ed­u­ca­tion,” she said.

Coun­cil mem­ber Lance San­ders added: “Ev­ery busi­ness runs that way. You need a base salary to start out.”

“It’s up to the vot­ers to de­cide,” Cot­ting­ham said.

“It’s up to the City Coun­cil to de­cide,” San­ders said.

“You have to un­der­stand,” But­ton told coun­cil mem­bers, “orig­i­nally, this or­di­nance was done in Au­gust, which was after the peo­ple had filed to run, which was not, i don’t be­lieve, … fair. Which was why it was changed to say we would do it in June. I’ve left this blank; in the past it’s been $25,000.

“It’s be­ing fair to the peo­ple that are go­ing to run… it can change in Jan­uary,” she said.

Cot­ting­ham said that from his re­search, the only per­son who could re­duce the mayor’s salary was the mayor.

“We are not re­duc­ing Jackie’s salary,” But­ton said. “It’s not be­ing re­duced. It’s be­ing set for the new term.”

“We wouldn’t re­place ei­ther one of these guys at the same rate,” coun­cil mem­ber Steve Guthrie said, point­ing to city de­part­ment heads.

“I’ve heard from a lot, a lot of peo­ple this was de­signed to elim­i­nate any com­pe­ti­tion for the in­cum­bent,” Cot­ting­ham said. “I was an ad­vo­cate, for sure. That works great in cor­po­rate world, but not for elected of­fi­cials.

“If I ran for pres­i­dent, I would start at the cur­rent salary,” Cot­ting­ham con­tin­ued.

“I would agree it doesn’t strike me as il­le­gal be­cause the coun­cil has power to set the salary for the next year’s of­fice,” city at­tor­ney Shane Perry said, re­spond­ing to Cot­ting­ham’s query for ad­vice. “And that’s com­mon that it hap­pens in dif­fer­ent mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

“I re­ally con­sider this a leg­isla­tive is­sue… I agree with you that this has po­lit­i­cal as­pects to it.

“It sounds like you’re hear­ing from some of your con­stituents about it, so my ad­vice to coun­cil, it doesn’t sound il­le­gal… but I do think it is a leg­isla­tive is­sue and have to de­fer to you in how you use your leg­isla­tive pow­ers,” Perry said.

Guthrie said that if some­one is elected as mayor who has no skills, the coun­cil may have to hire some­one to as­sist, thereby cost­ing more money to the city.

“I think the coun­cil is over­step­ping what the Mu­nic­i­pal League has al­ready dic­tated,” Cot­ting­ham said. “It’s send­ing out neg­a­tive vi­bra­tions to the con­stituents and vot­ing pub­lic that this is all set up to be sure there’s no com­pe­ti­tion.”

“What the mayor is mak­ing is too high for some­one who is not trained,” Guthrie said.

After lengthy dis­cus­sion, coun­cil mem­ber Ray Easley made a mo­tion to set the salary at $30,000. San­ders sec­onded the mo­tion.

Coun­cil mem­bers Easley, Guthrie and San­ders voted to ap­prove the or­di­nance. Cot­ting­ham voted against it. The or­di­nance was ap­proved.

“I think we’re go­ing to have a firestorm and right­fully so,” Cot­ting­ham said.

“But we as a City Coun­cil can change that dol­lar fig­ure when some­one is elected based on their ex­pe­ri­ence,” San­ders said. “And I don’t think it’s fair to the peo­ple of our city… they get elected and have no ex­pe­ri­ence.”

“I have tread that same thought,” Cot­ting­ham said, “how­ever it has to be fair … a good liv­ing wage.”

“For the record, I am to­tally against this,” Cot­ting­ham said.

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