Edmonds councilmembers take issue with mayor’s raise; say better council salaries needed too

By design, the Edmonds City Council has no control over the recommendations made by the Edmonds Citizens’ Commission on Compensation of Elected Officials, an all-volunteer commission that reviews and sets not only councilmembers’ compensation and benefits but that of Edmonds’ other elected officials — the Mayor and Municipal Court Judge. The new salary schedule for 2015 and 2016 goes into effect as soon as the schedule is filed with the City Clerk’s office, which occurred last Thursday, July 10. But that didn’t stop some councilmembers from criticizing the commission’s recommendations at Tuesday night’s council meeting to give the Edmonds mayor a $500 per month pay increase — from $9,623 to $10,123 — plus any cost of living adjustments received by the city’s non-represented city employees during those years.

Some councilmembers were also frustrated that the commission — which compares Edmonds mayoral and council salary data with that of comparable cities with similar governments, along with other data points — decided to keep council compensation the same — at $1,695, which includes a health insurance benefit.

Edmonds City Councilmember Joan Bloom presented a long list of issues she had with the commission’s recommendations, starting with the fact that the commission currently has only four members when under the city ordinance it’s supposed to have a membership of seven. Human Resources Director Carrie Hite responded that the city has had a difficult time filling the positions on the commission, but did mention that there was a fifth commission member who signed off on the report but is currently on medical leave.

Bloom also said she saw no point in commission’s decision to add a $2,000 professional development benefit for the council, aimed at covering time spent attending training opportunities, since councilmembers already have that type of training available to them.

Both Bloom and Councilmember Lora Petso strongly objected to the raise for the mayor, and Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas said that neither the mayor nor the council should be receiving raises during the current budget climate, although the council president should receive additional money for extra duties that position requires.

“I was very disappointed by the results of the work,” Bloom said. “For me, this is about realizing how difficult it is to…get people interested in the position [of councilmember]– particularly the young people. Because if you look at most of the people here, they are either retired, semi-retired or have their own independent business so they can flex their schedule. I thin it’s really unrealistic to expect that any full-time person can do this job.”

Added Bloom: “I would really like to see councilmembers valued more and not marginalized or seen as worker bees and do all this work and don’t get paid for it.”

Councilmember Strom Peterson thanked the commission for its work, noting that the members have a difficult job. Commission co-chair Mike Hathaway explained that the commission was limited by several factors in making its recommendations, including what the city’s budget can accommodate in terms of compensation.

Also part of the commision’s recommendation was reaffirming the current Edmonds Municipal Court judge’s salary — which is reimbursed from state court improvement account funds — is set at 95 percent of the salary for a full-time district court judge. The Edmonds judge’s position is a part-time (.55 FTE) position and paid on a pro-rated basis — currently $6,294 monthly.

Citizens who want to learn more about this issue are encouraged to watch the entire taped presentation of this agenda item which includes the commission’s entire report as well as a detailed discussion about the size of the commission and the factors considered in making the compensation adjustments.

The council also:

– Unanimously approved an ordinance amending the 2014 budget, which includes unexpected expenses for IT equipment replacement to fix telephone and email system glitches.

– Voted 4-3 against a motion by Petso to amend the recently-approved Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to include only the South portion of the Sunset Walkway, when such a project is developed. Petso originally voted in favor of the TIP but indicated at the July 1 council meeting she was going to request a re-vote, due to her ongoing concerns about safety related to the Sunset. There is no money currently in the city budget to build a pathway on Sunset — which has been the subject of ongoing citizen and council debate in recent months — but being included as part of the Transportation Improvement Program is a necessary step for any future work.

– Voted unanimously to authorize the Mayor to sign a Professional Services Agreement with the Site Workshop to complete the design of a spray pad water feature, to be installed east of the new playground equipment at City Park next spring.

– Unanimously approved the amendment of an interlocal agreement with Snohomish County that will allow Edmonds to continue as a partner in the Urban County Consortium — including the ability to apply for funding under HUD block grant programs.

-After a short executive discussion, agreed by a 5-2 vote to allow Mayor Dave Earling to proceed with two candidates — rather than the normally required three — to fill the Director of Community Services/Economic Development job vacated by the resignation of Stephen Clifton. You can read more about those two candidates here.

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18 Comments

  1. Related to the Citizen’s Commission on Compensation of Elected Officials, the City law in question is ECC Chapter 10.80. This law clearly states that the compensation commission shall consist of seven members. Shall is a very strong word with a very clear, plain and simple meaning. Chapter 10.80 was just updated on April 15, 2014 so there was a very recent opportunity to approve a reduction in commission size, but this was not done. I have to believe that this means that the past and current legislative intent was for this commission to include 7 members. Also, the April 8, 2014 Agenda implies that one reason they wanted to change the due date to the first Monday in August instead of May was because they were having difficulty seating a full commission.

    Even with the extra time, they were unable to seat a full commission. Instead of getting legislative approval for a smaller commission, they just moved forward. The City’s website even indicates that ”The Citizens’ Commission on the Compensation of Elected Official (as authorized by City Ordinance 10.80) is up to a seven member commission…” This is a false representation as Chapter 10.80 says nothing about “up to”.

    It was represented last evening that the commission really is 7 members when you factor in the 3 vacant positions. It was also implied that the 3 vacant positions don’t count when you calculate how many votes it takes to reach the required simple majority plus 1 member vote requirement.

    Sometimes it helps to look at things from the opposite side. If the law really was “up to” 7 members, would 1 member be enough? If vacant positions count in the calculation of 7 members, could 6 vacant positions be coupled with 1 active member to reach the required 7 members? If the commission was comprised of 1 member and 6 vacant positions, how would a simple majority plus 1 member vote be obtained?

    One reason this is so important is because RCW 35.21.015(3) precludes the City Council from having any ability to act upon the changes to the compensation schedule established by the Citizens’ Commission. Changes to the compensation schedule established by the Citizens’ Commission are not recommendations to be voted on by the city council, but rather changes that shall become law upon filing with the city clerk, without any input or action by the City Council. This may be why it was important to the City Council that the compensation commission SHALL consist of seven members.

    The Commission’s memo was filed with the City Clerk on July 10, 2014, thus becoming law on that date. In addition to everything discussed above, the law is flawed in that it provides the City Council President discretion as to how the professional development funds are prioritized. Hopefully the State Auditor and/or State Attorney General will look at all of this.

    • We recently witnessed how rapidly a new Ordinance can get passed when Ordinance 3970 was passed requiring residency for membership on the Citizens Economic Development Commission. The same could have easily been done if the Council’s Legislative intent was to allow the compensation commission to be comprised of fewer than 7 members.

  2. It is a shame how this city government is operating. Again it is aganst the law to accept and spend Federal grant money by unlawful means. It is against the law for our government to operate in this way and continue blatantly skirting and bending laws just to get more and more money. The citizens of Edmonds need to start paying attention. This is a very WEALTHY community and it is outrageous that our town would
    Continue to to operate in this way and take money away from people and towns thst REALLY need it. To me it is the same as stealing. Our citizens need to watch those that continue this and vote accordingly. And by the way., everything starts at the top. What a gig here some people have. Is this what we want to be known for?

  3. Several citizens of Edmonds spoke about the controversial Sunset Avenue walkway project last evening. I believe these people have graciously and humbly shared their residential neighborhood with the public for many years. I believe they are the opposite of “Not in my backyard” (NIMBY) citizens. Instead, they appear to simply like how they have shared their neighborhood for years and don’t want to radically change something that has been enjoyed by so many for a very long time. Also, they appear to simply desire more transparency, reasonably requesting information related to any communications with BNSF and the location of the existing sidewalk.

    How sad that 4 councilmembers voted last night to prolong this anxiety and uncertainty when an alternative process was proposed, a process that may have provided an opportunity for more public involvement based on more complete factual information.

    I’ve emailed Mayor Earling and Mr. Williams asking them to please inform the public how much of the existing sidewalk on Sunset Avenue is located on PRIVATE property, to the east of the City’s easement. I’ve received no response. A citizen made a similar request last evening. City Staff has represented in the past that the City’s right-of-way easement along Sunset Avenue ends 18 – 24″ east of the existing sidewalk. As this appears to not be true, I believe the City has a duty to immediately disclose the facts so that all are fully aware of this important information.

    I think the City also has a responsibility to inform the public why there had been a lot of staff work done on the Sunset Avenue project before it was even added to the Transportation Improvement Program.

    A public hearing for the Six-Year (2012-2017) Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) was held on July 19, 2011. The related City Council-approved minutes include a councilmember comment that there had been a lot of staff work done on the Sunset Avenue project. The minutes include comments by the Public Works Director that the Sunset Avenue project includes a 12.5-foot-wide sidewalk and an adjacent 5-foot-wide bicycle facility. What is uncertain is why staff had done a lot of work on a project that had yet to be added to the TIP.

    Who authorized such work and where were the related funds drawn from?

  4. ECC 10.80.050 states the following:

    “If the commission is not able to approve the compensation schedule by an affirmative vote of a simple majority of the commission plus one member, then the previous schedule, or the substantial equivalent thereof, shall be deemed to remain in effect.”

    If the City’s stance is that the commission is defined as 4 members plus 3 vacant seats to equal a 7 member commission, a simple majority plus one of this 7 member commission has to be 5.

    The law clearly says that “a simple majority of the commission plus one member”. It does not say a simple majority of those actually voting.

    As such, I think it is very clear that the 4 members plus 3 vacant seats equals 7 member commission was unable to approve the proposed compensation schedule.

    I believe none of this discussion should even be taking place. Legislative approval of a smaller commission should have been sought. It wasn’t -why not?

    Again, look at the speed processing Ordinance 3970 to require residency for membership on the Citizens Economic Development Commission. Why that effort, but not a similar effort to address ECC 10.80.050?

  5. I will certainly remember this pay increase.. I wish I could get a $500.00 a year raise! outta-touch.

  6. Glad to see the Council included the Sunset Walkway ion the TIP. While many of the current residents of Sunset are displeased, the majority of those in the rest of the city are probably thinking …”about time.” While I am not an attorney, I would bet the right of way for the existing Sunset sidewalk is now 100% city owned. I believe the rule of law is Adverse Possession. That is how it works between private property owners, and I would bet the city has greater rights than a private citizen.

    As to the salary commission issue, some time ago I served on the Woodway Town Council where it was considered a “public service” to serve. No compensation at all. Meetings were sometimes heated, but decisions were made quickly and efficiently as we did not get paid for continuing to discuss an issue in meeting after meeting…after meeting.

    • I’m not an attorney either, but I believe the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that the owner of property taken by the government must be justly compensated for the property.

      Adverse possession by a government entity is different than adverse possession by a private party. Our limited government is supposed to respect private property rights and adhere to constitutional guidelines when acquiring private property. Adverse possession by a government entity does not seem to fit well with that government responsibility.

      I hope the City of Edmonds is not going to consider pursuing adverse possession along Sunset. I fear such would further alienate the citizens and create even greater mistrust.

      It would be interesting to know how long the City of Edmonds has been using this private property for ingress/egress. Can an argument be made that the City already owes these private citizens a lot of money for using their private property without compensating them for such?

  7. I would like to KNOW the NAME of the supposed 5th member who is “in the hospital”. There was not a mention of any other member (only 4) until the question came up last night regarding the law, and then apparently this, WHOEVER he/she is, is “in the hospital”. I would like to KNOW the name of this person, and why the 5th member was never mentioned before, only 4 members mentioned as part of this commission, which I believe does not follow the LAW.

    Does it even make sense that parties that have conflicts of interest regarding their OWN pay increases would even be the ones to CHOOSE the people that will or will not give them pay increases? I would think someone totally INDEPENDENT would choose this commission. not people that could profit from the decisions of the commission. There is something wrong here. This is OUR $$$$ that is being thrown around, so it would be nice to have these questions answered

    • Commission members for Compensation Group, from City web site

      Dilys Rosales (Co-Chair)
      Mike Hathaway (Co-Chair)
      Mike Meeks
      Brent Hunter
      Norma Middleton

  8. With Council unbridled & careless spending, I smell a levy coming up on the ballot soon…

    “The money is already spent and we have maxed out the credit cards” , so a levy will be needed…”to meet our runaway expenses”

    The Council is being closely watched!

  9. *****We know the rest of Edmonds does not believe our money should be spent for this ONE BLOCK (and I believe a $$$$$MILLION already spent), for a select FEW

    ONE BLOCK!!,, MILLIONS will be spent, one million already spent, and the suggestion that the residents of the this town are saying “about time”…..Is this a joke?!

    ONE BLOCK

    It is preposterous to even entertain the idea that the whole of this town thinks this is a good deal and great idea and NEEDED and especially considering how the money was attained and other items that need to be addressed in our town…..and more important the $$$$money and TIME wasted with our government/staff being PAID to continually visit this…..I’m wondering what that adds up to….

    Again, for ONE BLOCK, $$$$$……Perhaps we should call for a vote on this, and let the residents speak for themselves, and particularily a vote for the residents up the hill that our Mayor refers to as the “OTHER EDMONDS”. And, I’m still wondering about the REAL name of the ONE person in the whole town that suggested we spend over a MILLION$$$$ on this ONE BLOCK, again, ONE BLOCK

    I hope ALL the residents of Edmonds VOTE and REMEMBER this, and vote accordingly! so we can move forward and get down to the REAL business of TAKING CARE of our city and residents…..NOT just a SELECT FEW………by and for the few

  10. Mr. Milliken,

    The position of mayor received a $6000/year raise, ($500/month). In addition, the mayor will receive a 1 1/2% cost of living increase in 2015.

  11. Sorry for the incorrect spelling of your name.

  12. Tere, While I am somewhat concerned about raising the hackles of someone so opinionated, you are getting a little loose with the facts. You suggest the Sunset Walkway is just “ONE BLOCK”…when the Sunset Walkway is actually closer to six blocks from Bell to Caspers and then 2 more blocks on Caspers to 3rd……That’s 8 blocks long and connects with the city sidewalk project of a few years ago that goes from 3rd, up Capers, north on 9th and terminates at Olympic View Drive. And in any case, numerous examples can be made of major investments in specific areas….Haines Wharf Park, the new Park next to Beck’s Cemetery, the park in the Old Mill Town, the improvements on Main from 5th to 6th, etc. It is the attraction of Puget Sound that makes the walkway desirable to the rest of the Town, especially coupling the prospect of the Sunset Walkway, which is the “missing link”, with the walkway from the Port of Edmonds to Bell St. Maybe 1 1/2 miles to 2 miles long all overlooking Puget Sound. You are right when you say the basic concern from the nay sayers on Sunset is “Change”. Whether or not they are NIMBY’S I will leave for the rest of the Town to decide.

  13. Mike, many of your points are also covered in the Strategic Plan. Those results are statistically valid and a high percent of the folks supported some of the ideas you cite.

  14. The City of Edmonds has an EXCEPTIONAL sound VIEW CORRIDOR already that goes all the way from the north end of the beach north of Bracketts Landing to the far end of the dog park. THAT is a beautiful, architecturally landscaped view corridor right ON the beach, sea vista waterfront with art and many other amenities that are so exceptional for a small town such as Edmonds. The Sunset Project does not even make sense and it is referred to like there is no other view corridor around this town.

    Not everything has to be “developed” particularily in times when towns and cities are OUT OF MONEY and can’t even visit fixing basic infrastructure. Say what you will, this is clearly about ONE BLOCK.

    This isn’t about being opinionated, it is about WASTING TAXPAYER $$$$$$$$……This is ONLY a “missing link” for a few.

    I hope residents VOTE accordingly when the time comes.

  15. My problem with the $1,000 month pay for councilmembers is the flawed method by which it was determined. The $1,000 consists of a base pay of $600 and the assumption that councilmembers will attend at least 8 meetings each month and be paid $50 for each of those meetings. The problem is that there are not 96 authorized meetings each year for them to attend. Additionally, prior to 2013 councilmembers were only paid for meetings that they actually attended. That requirement went away and resulted in poorer attendance records by some. It is obvious that city council needs to do a thorough review of the salary commission concept.

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