Mayor Mike Bell's proposal to raise the salary levels of his top administrators one year before he faces re-election has prompted a request that he reject campaign contributions from those employees.
Councilman Steven Steel submitted a proposed "ethics pledge" to Mayor Bell Thursday. Mr. Steel, a Democrat, noted that the mayor's proposed salary range increases would directly benefit a number of Mr. Bell's campaign contributors.
Among them is Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat, who wrote the report to raise executive salaries and who personally donated $2,100 in 2011 to the mayor's campaign account.
"All I'm asking him to do is make sure this is simply to retain people in employment and it isn't kind of bumping up people's raises in a quid pro quo for campaign contributions," Mr. Steel said.
He said he was not alleging wrongdoing, but noted there could be an "appearance of impropriety."
According to 2011 campaign finance reports, Mr. Steel said, Mr. Bell raised $10,769 from city employees, many of whom would be affected by the legislation that was submitted to council on Tuesday.
Mr. Bell was elected in 2009 as a political independent and has not said whether he will run again in 2013. Neither the mayor nor Mr. Herwat could be reached for comment.
It is not uncommon for council members to receive campaign contributions from city employees. Mr. Steel has also received contributions from city employees.
In addition, he has received contributions from unions representing city employees in contract talks for wages and other benefits, on which each councilman has a vote.
Mr. Steel said he did not believe those contributions should be prohibited by his pledge because he doesn't directly set their salaries. He said though council sets the ranges for executive employees, the mayor determines the amount the executives receive within the ranges.
"The obvious difference is I don't directly hire or fire them. I don't set their compensation rates directly. There's different degrees of separation there," Mr. Steel said.
He said he will urge the pledge on any other mayoral candidates who step forward.
The requested pay-range increases from Mayor Bell vary between about 18 and 20 percent depending on the position. They are the first comprehensive effort to boost executive salaries since 1998, the administration said. The new pay levels would affect deputy mayors, directors, commissioners, managers, and lawyers in the city law department.
Mr. Steel said he hasn't made up his mind about the proposed executive compensation ranges.
Under Mr. Steel's proposed pledge, Mayor Bell would agree to refuse or return campaign contributions from employees for whom he has the power to set compensation, as well as from their spouses and immediate family members.
The pledge also states that as mayor he would hire, fire, promote, demote, and set compensation levels based on knowledge, experience, and performance and not previous campaign contributions.
Contact Tom Troy at: email@example.com or 419-724-6058.
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