Port Orchard again attempts mayor’s ‘performance based’ salary model

The Port Orchard City Council has been stymied in its efforts to tie Mayor Lary Coppola’s salary to his performance, but advocates of the plan’s latest plan say this version takes more control and has a better chance of success.

“This idea has evolved,” said Councilman John Clauson. “We will establish goals for the mayor to accomplish. If he is successful, he will receive the full-time salary. If he does not, he has agreed to accept less.”

Coppola, who was elected in 2007, approached the council last year with a plan to raise his part-time pay to a full-time level commensurate with the city’s need for representation.

Coppola first suggested covering the raise through lodging tax revenues, since tourism promotion is part of his job.

This was flagged by the state Auditor’s Office as illegal, and the city sought to find the funds in other places.

The situation was complicated further when it was discovered the council is entitled to raise — but cannot lower — the mayor’s salary, which defeated the idea to pay him on the basis of his accomplishments.

But even if the council cannot fluctuate the mayor’s pay, the mayor is entitled to refuse and return any portion of his salary.

This provides the basis for the new plan, which relies on a certain level of honesty and trust between the mayor and council.

So what works between Coppola and this particular council might fail when other personalities are involved.

The mayor has sent a list of priorities to the council, which will decide which goals are most important.

It will set a schedule for Coppola to accomplish the goals, and will meet at that time in order to gauge his success.

If he passes, he will continue to receive the higher salary. If not, he will voluntarily accept a lower pay scale.

Previous plans have been thwarted by the lawyers, but Clauson said the plan is legal, adding, “We cannot lower the mayor’s salary, but he can decline whatever portion he chooses.”

As for taxes, the mayor will instruct the treasurer as to how much he is to receive (within proscribed boundaries) and the city will issue a check for that amount with the proper tax withholding included.

The mayor’s salary and benefits on a part-time level added up to $29,106 per year — full time adds up to $85,147.

Coppola’s initial list of goals is ambitious, and he admits that “some are not really quantifiable. There are also some things that will out of my control (like the economy), but that doesn’t mean we can’t work towards fulfilling those goals in the second half of the year.”

These goals include the development of a three-year “action plan,” hiring a legislative lobbyist, look for ways to cut energy usage, switch to the use of hybrid vehicles, and resolve the South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA) issue.

Clauson said the implementation of the plan will not require any council action, aside from adopting the goals and then deciding whether they have been accomplished.

However, its success depends on a degree of trust between the mayor and council, since “Lary can disagree with our conclusions and decide to not reduce his salary even if we say he hasn’t met the goals.”

The agreement would also be re-examined when Coppola leaves office, as his successor might not agree to such an unstable arrangement.

In the meantime, the future depends upon a degree of trust.

“If I don’t get the job done, I won’t accept any money for not doing it,” Coppola said.

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