Monday, August 1, 2011

Mayor and ex-mayor turned council member are at odds over incentive pay, meetings, emails

By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Amid talk of such big issues as tax rates and officials' compensation, the main action at tonight's Midway City Council meeting was between Mayor Tom Bozarth and Council Member Becky Moore, who preceded him as mayor and was elected to the council last year.

The council gave first reading to three ordinances, two to set property-tax rates (only the real-estate rate would change, rising 0.1 cent per $100, to 10.2 cents producing the same revenue as last year due to declines in property values) and one to create an incentive program that would give city officials accelerated compensation for receiving 15 hours of annual training from the Kentucky League of Cities.

After the council spent some time addressing Council Member Joy Arnold's concerns that the incentive schedule needed clarification, Moore said she wanted to make clear that council members make only $50 a month ($600 a year) and would not consider raising that salary, but would be able get $5,000 apiece in incentive pay over four consecutive years of training.

The incentives would be $500 for the first year of training, $1,000 for the second and $1,500 for the third. If all six council members received training each year for four years, the total cost in the fourth year would be $12,000. The ordinance says the payments would not be considered wages; Bozarth said after the meeting that is so they would not count toward retirement benefits; he said they will be taxable. (An early version of this story said otherwise.)

Moore said the council needs to make sure the money is in the budget. Bozarth said the money for next year is in the budget, the training would be voluntary, and "This is to be an incentive . . . to be more informed. We're all volunteers." City Attorney Phil Moloney said later that trained officials are less likely to get the city into costly trouble.

Bozarth said any mayor needing to cut expenses would cut the program. The ordinance would give the mayor the authority to approve city officials for training. Moore said that approval should also be up to the council. Bozarth said, "I don't see what the problem is." Moore said her request was not aimed at him, but made out of a desire for the council to keep tabs on spending.

Arnold said she could envision some future mayor ("she or he," she said) showing favoritism, approving one council member's training but not another's. Arnold, a lawyer, said she would rather have "regulatory language" on the mayor's power than have joint mayoral-council approval. But neither Arnold nor Moore made a motion to amend the ordinance, and it was accepted for first reading. Presumably, second reading will be held at the next meeting, on Aug. 15.

At the start of the meeting, as the council prepared to approve the minutes of the last meeting, Moore asked that minutes of future meetings reflect more of the council's discussions. Bozarth told her that the minutes are only required to reflect council action, but if she wants something in them, all she has to do is ask.

Moore did just that at the end of the meeting, after saying she finds it "weird" that council committees have met infrequently since she joined the council and Bozarth reorganized them. Bozarth replied, "There are some issues that are easier to take to the whole council." Moore expressed concern about business being conducted outside the committee system. With a committee meeting on the incentive plan, she said, "I think we would have had a lot of these questions answered." She asked that her concern appear in the minutes.

The discussion prompted Council Member Doris Leigh to give an informal report about her work as chair of the Cemetery and City Property Committee, the only panel to which Bozarth appointed Moore. Moore replied to Leigh, "I don't know what you're doing, and I'm on your committee."

Last week, after getting the preliminary agenda for the meeting in an email from City Clerk Phyllis Hudson, Moore sent two replies to all recipients, asking that three items be added to the agenda: a report on Fiscal Court redistricting, an economic-development report and discussion of points made by citizens at a forum the council held in May. For more on that, click here. As last night's meeting was about to end, Moore said, "Some of my e-mails were not getting answered," and after adjournment she directed a similar comment to Bozarth. The mayor threw up his hands and said, "I'm not getting into it."

Interviewed by email, Bozarth told the Midway Messenger that he set the agenda for the meeting, and "I had already addressed her requests with the agenda that was in place." He said "everything Ms. Moore had concerns with were fully addressed." The council heard a report from Chairman Brad McLean of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, and Bozarth and Arnold agreed during the meeting that the public's May comments would be discussed at the next meeting. Bozarth said in his email that redistricting will be discussed "when that is approved by the court."

1 comment:

Dan Roller, Midway Council Member said...

Your article states "If all six council members received training each year for four years, the total cost in the fourth year would be $12,000." As written, the ordinance also includes training for the mayor and two city clerks. Therefore, if all nine individuals receive training each year for four years, the total cost in the fourth year would be $18,000. For the fourth year, two days (15 hours)training, with a reimbursement of $2,000 would be an hourly rate of $133.33. Thank you for covering the Midway City Council meetings.