Should city directors and managers earn more for extra work? Council has reservations about idea

When City of Edmonds Human Resources Director Debi Humann was fired last September, the City’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite was asked to step in and assist the department — which at that time only had one other employee, an HR analyst. The analyst, Mary Ann Hardie, eventually became acting HR manager. But since the council eliminated the HR director position altogether in a cost-cutting move last November, Hite still provides occasional department direction in addition to her full-time Parks and Rec job.

That’s why Mayor Dave Earling went before the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night requesting that councilmembers consider adding a new chapter to the City Code allowing for “special duty pay” –  up to 10 percent of their salary — whenever the Mayor assigns managers and directors duties outside their normal scope of work. Councilmembers discussed the idea at length and decided to send the proposal to the Council’s Finance Committee for further exploration — but not before a wide range of opinions were expressed.

Councilmember Lora Petso said she wouldn’t be able to face the public if she approved the idea of giving directors “a 10 percent pay raise every time they step outside their job description.” Instead, Petso said, the job should be filled by another person or eliminated and duties assigned to another employee. Councilmember Joan Bloom said the bothered her that such increases would be left to the mayor’s discretion and wouldn’t come before the council first, since they would essentially represent a cost increase that would be hidden from citizens. Bloom called it a matter of transparency, noting that “if you are looking at a 10 percent increase for a manager that’s potentially $10,000. If there’s going to be an increase of that much, I want to know and I think citizens would want to know.”

Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas said that it made sense to compensate directors for extra responsibility, especially if they are saving the city money in the long run by avoiding the need to hire another staff person. And Council President Strom Peterson noted that the idea of combining positions or having directors assist with other jobs is something that the council may be looking at more often, given the city’s tight budget and future predictions of shortfalls.

Mayor Dave Earling also weighed in, noting that with the city projecting a $800,000 to million-dollar budget shortfall by next year, and predictions for being in debt by much as $3.5 million by 2017, “we will need to be more agile than I think our process is now” when it comes to hiring. He said that requiring council approval for manager/director extra duty arrangement “will bring the city to a grinding halt.”

“If you don’t provide me any tools in the tool box, we’re not going to make very good progress,” Earling added.

In other action, Hite made a presentation on the concept of a Metropolitan Park District, with the idea of putting it on the ballot as earlier as this November’s general election. You can see the Power Point presentation here, but if such a measure were approved by voters, it could fund the city’s deferred maintenance and capital needs for parks that are currently unfunded. In addition, the money raised through the property tax assessment (at a maximum of 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation) could free up city money currently dedicated to parks for other needs, such as city road maintenance.

The next step would be for the Council to form an exploratory committee of citizens to see if there is community support for the measure before deciding whether to move forward with a ballot measure, Hite said.

At the end of the Council meeting, Peterson said that since retiring Councilmember Michael Plunkett has determined his last day on the Council will be June 4, he is aiming for the council to appoint Plunkett’s replacement at its Tuesday, June 5 meeting. An online application form will be available on the City’s website soon, Peterson added.

 

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12 Comments

  1. It is inappropriate to give administrators a raise for picking up work that needs to be done at the same time that we are asking workers (labor) to take pay cuts while doing the same or more work. Lead by example.

  2. Why a 10% raise/bonus ? How about do the job you have and when necessary help out others ? Its been done in the private sector forever, without giving 10% raises. Its called “Get the job done !”

    • Just an FYI: something I didn’t put in the story is that Mayor Earling said last night he isn’t committed to a 10 percent figure for compensation — that amount was negotiable. I imagine that will be discussed at the Finance Committee meeting.

  3. I agree with both Dave and Ron on this issue. As a professional, you know that you have to do what it takes t get the job done without taught to further compensation. I usually work a 10 hour day, on the low side.

    On another note, I don’t understand what is the benefit of the Park District except to impose another tax. The power point simply shows some success in other communities primarily because voters came out to vote for the tax creating a fund. Is there something that I have totally missed here? Thanks in advance for helping me understand.

  4. We elected this Mayor because he is the best person for this position; let him do his job of running the day-to-day operations of the City. City Council has the position of seeing a vision for our community (3-5-10 years) in the future: so DO your job and let the Mayor handle his position.

  5. Priya:
    I was at the council meeting, and I read the materials prior to the meeting; your understanding of the Park District is correct.

  6. Michael Plunkett has announced his resignation from the City Council and that his resignation will take place on June 4, 2012. I do not know the significance of the June 4th date. The Everett Herald reported on February 29, 2012 that Mr. Plunkett referred to an item in EXECUTIVE SESSION that he has been working on for a few years that he would like to try to have input into before he resigns.

    Plunkett’s announcement requires the City of Edmonds to decide whether or not to spend taxpayer money to start the time-consuming process of filling the vacancy before June 4, 2012. Strom Peterson is indicating that the City has chosen to do so and that an online application form will be available on the City’s website soon.

    That being the case, filling vacant council positions is covered under section 1.02.035 of the City’s Code:

    In the event a vacancy or vacancies shall occur on the city council, such position(s) shall be filled until a successor to such position(s) can be elected for the remainder of the unexpired term(s) at the next municipal election.

    (Does anybody know what constitutes a municipal election and when the next one is scheduled?)

    Following are the steps required under the City’s Code to fill a vacant council position.:
    1. Public notification of the vacancy by posting and publication in the city’s legal newspaper.
    2. The establishment of an application process with a clearly stated deadline for the submission of letters of interest.
    3. The development of questionnaires to assist the city council in its process.
    4. A public interview process conducted by the city council.
    5. Nominations and selection by the city council during an open public meeting.

    All portions of this process shall be open to the public unless the city council in its discretion elects to discuss the qualifications of a candidate for public office in executive session as provided for by RCW 42.30.110(h). However, any interview of such candidate and final action appointing a candidate to elective office shall be in a meeting open to the public.

  7. The next municipal election for the municipality of Edmonds is the General Election of Nov 5, 2013. Any primaries that may be necessary will be in August.

  8. Thanks Ron – sorry this is hard for me to grasp. So putting the Metropolitan Park District on the ballot as earlier as this November’s general election, would not qualify as a municipal election. Rather, Municipal elections relate to choosing representation at the City level and are only held every two years? Thanks for helping me sort this out.

  9. As far as I know, a General Election is a municipal election. At general elections we are able to have ballot measures for any number of things:elect a mayor, elect council members, vote on initiatives, levy lid lifts, and many other things – like forming a Metropolitan Park District.

  10. As the retired owner of a small business representing manufacturers who used independent sales and marketing people to promote their products to targeted markets, I can tell you that they always expected more performance for less commission paid.

    I have personally put several companies on the map in the Pacific NW ( Pioneered their product as we called it) only to fired as they hired less expensive account maintenance types to maintain the business I and my associates had established for them. That is how the private sector works.

    As an independent small business owner I paid both my and the employers side of Social Security taxes as did my independent associates. There where no benefits such as retirement, health care, etc. That was up to myself and my associates. As was travel, training and meeting expenses.

    Every time asked, we stepped up and delivered, knowing eventually we would lose that manufacturer once we gave them the market share needed to replace us. Why, because that is how the private business sector works!

    How anyone associated with the City of Edmonds, Mayor, Council Member, Manager or Employee could even consider giving or asking for more compensation in a down economy with a shrinking tax base is totally unacceptable to me as a fiscally responsible citizen of Edmonds and I doubt I am alone.

    Balance the Budget!

  11. I think people are forgetting why unions were created. In the private sector it had been common practice to work a person until they dropped and to do so for as little as could be possible. Of course that isn’t necessarily why unions exist today because of minimum wage standards and other labor laws.
    But still, in the private sector of sales and manufacturing, if people don’t step up to “get the job done”, their jobs may cease to exist because their customers will go somewhere else. Also, if you do an exceptional job in the private sector, there may be bonuses or other compensation that you don’t find being given in the public sector. Comparing the two then, I believe, is not the same. Especially since private sector jobs are all about making a profit.
    If you don’t perform your job in the public sector it is up to the supervisor to find out why and take corrective action if necessary. But to expect people to do more work than for what they were hired or for longer hours without compensation, well that is one of the reasons that unions came to be and why labor laws now exist to prevent it. The private sector just gets away with it, especially when they change your pay status from hourly to salary. I do agree, however, that the tax dollars being spent for wages does need to be used efficiently.

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