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Published: Sunday, 10/21/2012

Unrequited love

City of Toledo officials are refusing to attend evening meetings scheduled by the City Council. Their misconception is that they work for Mayor Mike Bell, rather than the people of Toledo.

Mayor Bell is in a power struggle with council members. He wanted City Council to show some love to about 70 high-ranking city officials and lawyers by raising their pay scales 18 to 20 percent and approving automatic future increases. Their pay ranges — with the exception of the police and fire chiefs — haven’t been adjusted in more than a dozen years.

Some council members suggested that the mayor show his officials love first by raising their pay to the maximum under the current scale. Councilman D. Michael Collins offered a compromise: a 10 percent pay-scale increase beginning in 2014, a one-time payment of $1,250 to offset higher medical premiums, and elimination of a city-paid 5 percent pension pickup in 2013.

The mayor responded by reducing his request to 15 percent, with no strings and no built-in future range increases. Council scorned that proposal.

Mayor Bell then told city officials they could not attend City Council-sponsored events after 5 p.m. He said that expecting salaried city officials to work outside normal business hours “abuses these people,” except when he tells them to do so. “I am the mayor and these people work for me,” he said.

But they don’t. They take orders from the mayor, but they work for Toledo’s citizens. And the evening events they’ve been forbidden to attend surely are citizens’ business.

Salaried employees in the private sector don’t punch a time clock. If city lawyers, directors, commissioners, and other top officials expect to be done in time for happy hour, they should find another line of work — perhaps as one of the union members Mayor Bell said would have “torn this council chamber down to the ground.” Love of public service isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be, measured by the size of a paycheck.

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