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Port Orchard City Council narrowly approves pay increase
The Port Orchard City Council voted 4-3 to approve setting councilmembers’ compensation for $500 for each regular meeting.
Action was taken at the Oct. 22 meeting.
Voting against the ordinance were Councilmen Jerry Childs and Fred Chang, along with Councilwoman Cindy Lucarelli.
According to City Treasurer Allan Martin, the Department of Retirement Systems advised the city that an elected official on the Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS) 2 or 3 earns service credits on a monthly basis.
Martin said in order for a councilmember to qualify for the monthly service credit an official must be compensated for more than 90 times the state minimum wage ($9.32 an hour) in a month as of Jan. 1. A councilmember must be compensated $838 a month at the time to be eligible for one month of service credit.
The state constitution provides that a councilmember’s salary cannot be increased or decreased during their term in office or after their election, noted Martin.
He said for the positions whose terms expire Dec. 31, the council can increase the salary prior to the Nov. 5 election.
Childs suggested that a citizens committee review and address the problem, and come up with a solution.
“That process to me would make me feel better that the public understands what the issues are and supports it — if they did,” Childs said. “It is a problem and it’s not fair.”
Chang said councilmembers make $771.25 per month and the increase would go up to $1,000. He said a councilmember needs to make $838.80 a month to be eligible for one month of service credit.
“I’m struggling and do we need to jump to $1,000 a month to keep ahead of projected minimum wage over the next four years or term,” Chang said. “The jump to $1,000 is too high, and I won’t be supporting this.”
Chang said he liked Childs’ suggestion of a citizens review committee to look at the issue.
Lucarelli said she could not support the ordinance because of the economic times.
“The minimum wage is something that changes,” Lucarelli said. “The whole process needs to be changed.”
Councilman Jeff Cartwright, who supported the pay raise, said it’s not about money.
“It’s about the eligibility for retirement and a benefit that a city employee loses at no fault of their own,” he said. “It’s not about the dollar amount, it’s about the service credits that can be obtained.”
Cartwright said if the council didn’t pass the ordinance before the Nov. 5 election, they would have to wait two more years to address the issue.
Councilmen Rob Putaansuu, John Clauson, Cartwright and Councilwoman Carolyn Powers voted in favor of the salary increase.
“Councilmembers, who are the ballot now, will benefit,” Powers added.
KT Arthur, who gave her address at 1200 Bethel Avenue, said at the Oct. 8 council meeting she requested to have a video of citizens comments from the Sept. 24 meeting shown to identify at what point the citizens became threatening.
The video was not shown per Arthur’s request.
“Is there something particular I have to do to get that repeated?” Arthur asked city staff.
She asked for dialog from the council on “what constitutes a threatening and intimidating member of the audience.”
“How were we threatening or intimidating? Arthur asked the council.
After a few moments of silence from the council, Chang told Arthur he didn’t feel threatened, but that he was “very uncomfortable” at the Sept. 24 meeting.
Chang said he didn’t know if Arthur wanted a seven or one-person dialog, or rather talk to the council individually.
Mayor Tim Matthes addressed Arthur about the resident comment period.
“You should make all your comments just comments rather than questions,” Matthes said. “The council has already weighed in and said they were not going to engage the public in this form. That may or may not be agreeable to you. At least for now, please just state your opinion and not ask questions.”
Resident Wayne Patterson told the council that when they went on record to say they were intimidated, it is insulting to him and all city residents.
Patterson recited to the council the Revised Codes of Washington that the council shows aid in the conduct of people’s business and that their actions and deliberations be done openly.
“I can come in here and talk to you, and as a representative you are supposed to talk back,” Patterson said.
He said that the council placed two options on the same ballot measure and it doesn’t give city voters an option.
Vance Vaught apologized to the council for being intimidating at the Sept. 24 meeting.
“That was not my intention,” he said. “The intent was I wanted to show that we really care about the city and people of the city. We are not here as regulars, we are here as civic-minded citizens.”
Vaught said he would like to see some leadership from the council.
He asked Putaansuu to put out to the public information about the city manager.
“If you can really show us — the people that actually vote and care about the city — and that this will give us what we’re after, then good, then I’ll be behind you 100 percent,” Vaught said.