PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — In late December, Pittsburgh City Council members voted for a $16,000 pay raise themselves in a move the city controller called false.
Remember the 2005 legislative levy when state legislators increased their midnight pay by 16 percent or $11,500? As it turned out, the Pittsburgh City Council voted for an even bigger pay raise without the public knowing.
“This was not in the original budget proposal,” City Controller Michael Lamb told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Wednesday. “It was sneakily included in the budget at the end of last year’s budget meeting and was done without any public discussion, any public conversation.”
Lamb said the 22 percent pay increase was not included in the initial preliminary budget last September. That budget gave council members the same three percent raise received by other city workers, on a salary of $74,377 dollars.
But by the time the final budget was voted on in December and signed by then-Mayor Bill Peduto, the council’s salary had risen to $88,000.
“This was done off camera, outside of the lights, with no one else in the room to question it, and it was just plain wrong,” Lamb said.
Councilmember Theresa Kail-Smith defended the scale of the pay increase and the process.
Delano: The basic argument is that you did this secretly. Did you do this secretly?
Kail Smith: I think that’s a poor argument. That is a fabricated argument. We didn’t do it secretly. There have been public hearings. There are many opportunities. We had a special vote where we put all the amendments in.
But Lamb said that none of the nine board members had ever raised the issue of the 22% raise publicly in any hearing or discussion of the amendments so there was no way for the public to know about it. .
Lamb hopes the council reopens the budget in this regard.
“If they felt they very much deserved this increase and they proudly stood behind it in a vote, they should have been willing to do so in a public meeting, and that never happened. ,” said Lamb.
Kail-Smith says the budget is always open and council members are free to make any changes they want. But she defends the scale of the pay increase because, she said, the annual cost of living increase isn’t enough.
“The council hasn’t had a significant raise in nearly 20 years,” said Kail-Smith.
WATCH: Jon Delano reports
That’s why all nine members of the panel voted for budget amendments that would increase their salaries from $16,000 to $88,000, she said. The problem, says Lamb, is that they did this without publicly discussing the raise.
“Especially, when you’re talking about officially elected compensation, it has to be a public process,” Lamb said. “It has to be open. It should be a conversation and discussion. “
Kail-Smith doesn’t remember anyone talking about it publicly but says the pay increase was passed in an open meeting even if those watching didn’t realize the council was voting to increase it. wage.
“It’s not like we did it in the middle of the night. It happened during the day in a public process,” she said.
KDKA has reached out to other members of the board, but so far, there has not been much response on file. Some say they don’t realize how big this $16,000 raise is.
Councilmember Corey O’Connor said he would not accept the raise, but there has been no word from others or about any attempt to rescind the raise.
Mayor Ed Gainey’s office responded that, “Mayor Gainey is not engaged in any discussion of council or general salary increases in the 2022 budget.”
What happens next really depends on the public. After the legislature’s 2005 pay rise, the wave of criticism was so strong that state legislators rescinded their pay increases. Whether that happens in the city of Pittsburgh remains to be seen.
https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2022/01/26/pittsburgh-city-council-hikes-pay-by-16000/ Pittsburgh City Council Hiking pays $16,000; City Controller Raises Transparency Concerns – CBS Pittsburgh