Monday, November 13, 2006

Democrats Propose Pay Raises for County Officials

Democratic prosecutor candidate Melina Kennedy relentlessly attacked Prosecutor Carl Brizzi (R) for taking a pay raise approved by the General Assembly during his firm term in office. Now, Councilors Monroe Gray (D), Lonnell Connelly (D) and Joanne Sanders (D) are proposing 3% pay raises for 16 county and township officials less than a week after the election. The raise includes all the countywide offices, except for the prosecutor's office, as well as nine township assessors. All but three of those offices are held by Democrats.

The Star's Rishawn Biddle thinks the proposal "reeks." He writes at Expresso:

Speaking of city-county council Democrats and the perception of enjoying the spoils of power a little too freely, council President Monroe Gray, majority leader Lonnell Conley and council vice president Joanne Sanders, are introducing an ordinance at tonight's meeting that would give a three-percent raise to 16 countywide and township officials next year.

How nice of them to spend the taxpayer's money on raises in a period in which the council's past inattention to public safety is rearing its ugly head in the form of rising crime. How smart of them to do this just before the ramp-up to their campaign to keep control of the council. How prudent of them, given the city's myriad fiscal straits, including borrowing $53 million to cover its portion of the child welfare budget and underfunded police and fire pensions. And how curious that the raise comes as the Democrats have captured almost all the countywide offices and three township assessor spots -- and after criticizing Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, a Republican, of taking a state-granted pay raise during his re-election bid against another Democrat, Melina Kennedy.

Actually, it's neither nice, smart or fiscally responsible. Nor is it all that coincidental that the raise is benefitting a mostly-Democrat group of officeholders. It just plain reeks.

I don't recall any of the Democratic candidates for countywide office advocating a pay raise during the past election. I'm sure they will all gladly accept the raise though. I would add that none of these officials, with the exception of the sheriff, is overly paid, but the timing isn't very good given the current financial woes of Marion County. The salary for the sheriff does not appear to be capped, rather it is whatever amount is authorized by ordinance or contract. That could become a point of contention. He is already the highest paid elected official in the state of Indiana with a pay of at least $360,000. He gave up a $50,000 pay raise he negotiated with the county earlier this year after the public learned of it.

Another proposal introduced by Councilors Brown, Oliver and Conley would transfer $25,000 in the coroner's office budget to fund salaries for coroner employees who work in support of the forensic pathologists. County Coroner Kenneth Ackles has come under fire recently for his decision to terminate the coroner's 5-year contract with Pathology Associates of Indiana, which performs all of Marion County's autopsies, as well as about 20 other counties in central Indiana. Ackles claims the move will save money because he intends to hire new pathologists as employees of his office at a reduced cost. The contract terminates on December 19, but Ackles concedes he has not yet hired any replacement forensic pathologists. Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi's office is alarmed by Ackles' move. His office is currently investigating potential wrongdoing in Ackles' office.

UPDATE: The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette is reporting that Mayor Graham Richard (D) has proposed a new ordinance which would give him a 30% increase in pay, while increasing pay for council members and the city clerk by 3%. The $30,000 increase in pay would take his salary to $135,000. Richard only has one year left in his term, but I suspect the pay boost might have an impact on the pension he will eventually draw. Because he is not seeking re-election, he doesn't seem concerned about the political fallout from the salary boost.


Anonymous said...
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Jeff Newman said...

I think in fairness it should be pointed out that Brizzi's pay raise was $20,000, which was around a 20% increase from his previous salary. This "controversial" 3% raise barely covers inflation.

Anonymous said...

Jocelyn, what does that insanely long response have to do with the topic?

A shame the city is so strapped for cash. If anyone deserves a 3% raise it is the ridiculously underpaid city workers. I'll grant Jeff this in that it would barely cover inflation.

The emphasis behind raising the prosecutor pay wasn't merely to raise Carl Brizzi's pay, but to raise the deputy and public defender pay as well. In 2002 the starting pay for those positions was $33,800/year. Who expects a recent law graduate with $50,000 - $70,000 of student law debt to take a job earning that little? At least now for Marion County those jobs start around $43,000/year.

The timing of this pay raise is naturally suspect, but all pay raises with elected positions will be suspect.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Jocelyn, that has nothing to do with the topic. You promised a long time ago you were getting on your own site. I'm going to have to ask that you fulfill that promise and stop loading up this blog with off-topic comments

Anonymous said...

Amen, Gary. Condoleeza Rice makes good money. She doesn't need a raise.

I'm beginning to think that the council Democrats need a bullshit barometer.

This is the stupidest idea I've seen in a long time, and that's saying a lot.

Give the raises to the county workers. Many of them are working at or below poverty level. Republicans failed to get those salaries up for decades. They've got a lot of ground to make up. The revolving door on some of these jobs is tremendously wasteful. Government on the cheap isn't always good. These public servants work for us, and sometimes I am amazed at the quality of work for the salaries paid.

This is serving up a campaign issue to Republicans for 2007. The mayor's popularity wojn't be hurt by it, but this is just one more example of poor council leadership.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I'm somewhat bothered by Bob Clifford's comments in the Star this morning that the money was already in the budget; he had merely forgotten to ask for the ordinance change before now. Clearly, the budget was not advertised as including an increase for these elected officials. Jeff, on Brizzi's race, the prosecutor's pay is set by state statute and it had not been raised for many years. The council has been periodically raising the pay for the other county offices. Again, though, I don't think these officeholders are paid too much as it is. Before that last prosecutor's raise, the prosecutor in the small county where I grew up in Illinois was paid more than the Marion Co. prosecutor.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:19 I was about to say the same thing. Take a peek at the salaries for some of the jobs listed on the IndyGov web site. In the words of Tokyo Rose Wilson - PITIFUL!

Jeff Newman - compare apples to apples what did Frank Anderson get that he "gave back"? I recall that was about a 100% raise, not including the tax proceeds that he can legally pocket.

Jeff Newman said...

You seem to be making it a partisan discussion, Hailstone, which was not my intent in making the comment about Brizzi.

One of the many differences between you and me is that I am openly critical of members of both parties, and I also can (and do) say kind things about both. You speak only ill of dems and only good of pubs. If you can find a place to prove me wrong go ahead, I'll be glad to eat my words.

I, too, think the sheriff pay thing stinks to high heaven, and I'm sure Anderson would have gladly (and quietly) pocketed it had there been no fuss made and no imminent election.

I met Anderson's opponent in the election a couple times, and my take on it is he would have made a fine sherriff. I think he had difficulties campaigning; I'm sure he was a better cop than a politictian. Not such a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

AI, although the state "sets" the salaries of judges, prosecutors and others (county welfare directors, for one), the local governing body usually is required to kick in some of the salary or fringes.

The last time I checked, it was around 17%. That was 2000 or so. I suppose the statute could've changed altogether, but I don't think so.

Often, in Indiana counties, the local portion of these state-mandated judicial salaries is paid by the local share of traffic ticket revenue and portions of other court filing/docket fees.

I don't know what happens if the locality refuses to pitch in the local share. I'm assuming it happens rarely, and if it did, judges have the power to mandate.

Which amounts to checkmate.

Nonetheless, if I were a criminal attorney making decent money, I'll be damned if I'd leave it to be prosecutor. The job can be satisfying, I guess, but in a county the size of Marion, just about any given day, about 50% of the people are gonna think you're a complete idiot.

Regardless of party. And there are thousands--tens of thousands--of annual screwup opportunities by any number of the poorly-paid minions who work for you.

Anonymous said...

You speak only ill of dems and only good of pubs.

There's Dems worthy of speaking good ... for example there is ... ummm ... hmmm ... oh I know ... oh wait no ... oh yeah - I do wish the best of luck to Beth White because no matter who runs the elections in Marion County, they will be screwed up. Same though she is so partisan that she can't see the forest for the trees.

I can speak ill of the GOP now that the election is over. I don't think Mike Murphy treated the ticket very well. I for one am looking forward to some fresh leadership in the county GOP. The GOP put all its eggs in one basket - yeah that one we did pull off the win. At the expense of every other county office. All the boards (such as liquor control) and commissions will be stuffed with Dems now. The entire city will be at the beckon call of Mayor Bart. Just like Chicago is at the pleasure of one King Richard II. We can see from 175 miles away what kind of a s**thole it is.

Anonymous said...

I just started following local politics when the new city-county council was elected and the democrats gained the majority.

Is this isolated behavior by our ccc or has it always been this way? If it has always been this way, then I don't know why anyone would want to live in Indianapolis and why anyone would stay here if they are in a position to move.

indyernie said...

New word coming out of the CCC is Frankie boy is getting a pay raise.
Gary how about it any word to you?

Wilson46201 said...

IndyErnie, it is still inappropriate to call a 68yo Black man "Frankie boy" but I will be censored for decrying racism as well as homophobia being posted openly here ...

Anonymous said...

Relax Wilson.

No one appointed you personal guardian and protector of All Things Black.

When the Concerned Clergy, et al, weigh in, and announce that they're offended, then it might mean something. The earlier post was not meant to be racially offensive, I'm sure, except to your hypersensitive ears.

One more post from you, pretending to know what's best for Black Indianapolis, is one post too many.