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.