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4/28/2015
NCCo Council fails to override veto of staff pay raise, Councilís aides make between $41,000 and $61,000 each year

“It is my personal opinion that council staff are well-paid in light of their comp time and benefits, their vacation schedule and salaries given their responsibilities,” said Councilman Bob Weiner, who voted against the measure.

NCCo Council fails to override veto of staff pay raise

Xerxes WIlson, The News Journal 9:55 p.m. EDT April 28, 2015

A legislative attempt to give pay raises to some senior members of the New Castle County Council staff is dead.

The legislation was originally passed in March. It was vetoed and then revived by its sponsor, George Smiley, who said County Executive Tom Gordon had no authority to veto the internal council matter.

That prompted an opinion from County Attorney Bernard Pepukayi stating the council staff pay plans was not exempt from Gordon’s veto authority.

So Smiley tried Tuesday to override the veto and pass the legislation, which would have provided a pay increase commensurate with increases in cost of living in New Castle County to council staff members who have reached the top of the current 10-step pay plan.

“Now we are told by the council administration that they make decisions on council staff. When do we say enough is enough? When do we come together as a body to send the message that we will not be bought, we will not be intimidated and we will operate independently,” Smiley told the council.

After a brief argument between Smiley and members of Gordon’s staff who felt it was too late to try to override the veto, the measure failed to gain the 10 necessary votes to override. A majority of council members, seven total, voted in favor.

“It is my personal opinion that council staff are well-paid in light of their comp time and benefits, their vacation schedule and salaries given their responsibilities,” said Councilman Bob Weiner, who voted against the measure.

Smiley said 10 staff members – some whose wages have been stagnant for years – are at the 10th pay step. Council staff members have been eligible for 5 percent pay increases each of their first 10 annual steps subject to performance reviews. The ordinance does not provide an increase for council members.

The County Council’s staff includes legislative aides to each of the council members, the council’s policy director, counsel to council, the council clerk and her deputy, a receptionist and the county auditor. The county auditor’s pay is subject to oversight from the audit committee.

The council’s legislative aides make between $41,000 and $61,000 each year, depending on progress through the pay plan. Last year, annual salaries were $141,000 for counsel to council, $91,000 for policy director and council clerk, $67,000 for deputy clerk, and $43,000 for council secretary.

In justifying his veto, Gordon said that 60 percent of all county employees are at or above step 10, many of which are unionized. The concern is that the 10th step for some council employees, who are not unionized, would become a priority for unions negotiating future contracts, Gordon said. Negotiations with all employee unions are set to take place over the coming months.

“I find [Gordon’s reasoning] somewhat ludicrous when you look at the salaries and increases over this past year that have been provided to the executive staff,” Smiley said.

 

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