No chance to vote on Coppola's salary hike

Voters won't be able to weigh in about the increase in Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola's salary, which was intended to be temporary and measured by his ability to secure new funding and institute needed programs.

The city council on Tuesday night considered a motion to instruct staff to take preliminary measures for a non-binding advisory vote on the matter Nov. 3.

The vote would not have governed the council's actions. It would only has served as a barometer of how the public perceives the issue.

The measure was defeated night by a 5-2 vote.

"I am against this because I don’t think the voters should be deciding any salary issues,” said Councilman Jerry Childs. “We were elected to make these decisions, and an advisory vote would have no meaning.”

The motion was offered by Councilman Fred Olin, and seconded by Fred Chang.

After discussion, Olin and Chang were the only members who voted in favor of the motion.

As always, there was no disagreement that the position requires full-time commitment, and that Coppola is earning a full-time salary. Olin, who has long favored public input and did not support the original salary action, made the motion at this time because the funding stream has changed several times.

“This started as a six-month agreement and was due for review in June," Olin said. "This has been postponed several times. I think the voters deserve a say in this — even if it is only an advisory vote."

Council members Clauson, Childs, Rob Putaansuu, Carolyn Powers and Jim Colebank opposed the motion, although Colebank looked like he might change sides when he said, "This has been one snafu after another, and I was concerned when I heard we couldn't lower the salary.

"But there are a lot of complicated sides to this issue,” he said, “and the public doesn't always see what the mayor does. For this reason, I'm not sure they know enough to cast a meaningful vote."

Coppola's pay rate is in a state of flux. Initially intended to come from tourism funds, this was switched around after a ruling by the state Auditor.

The new system was in effect when City Attorney Greg Jacoby told the council that it could not reduce Coppola's $62,169 salary through 2011.

The city is now looking for sources to cover the difference between Coppola's original salary and the current compensation level.

"We don't know where the rest of the money needed to pay for the mayor's salary will come from right now," Clauson said. "We’re still committed to the idea of a performance-based model."

Coppola officiated the discussion but did not participate.

"We were blindsided by the attorney's opinion," he said after the vote was decided. "I want to stress that I have no problem with a performance-based model. I come from the private sector, where you don't eat if you don't work. And I don't want to be paid for anything I don't do."

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