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Published: Wednesday, 5/15/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Auditor OKs employee raises

Lopez proud of agreements that include merit-based pay

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
 Mayoral candidate and county Auditor Anita Lopez has blasted proposed pay raises for city councilmen and the mayor. Mayoral candidate and county Auditor Anita Lopez has blasted proposed pay raises for city councilmen and the mayor.
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Lucas County Auditor and mayoral candidate Anita Lopez, who blasted proposed pay hikes for city councilmen and Toledo’s mayor, approved raises for her employees under a new union contract and under a wage reopener with another union in her office.

Ms. Lopez refused to discuss specifics of the two agreements, citing advice from county lawyers. Late the next day, she said the lawyers had “recanted” and advised her that the contracts are public records, giving her freedom to talk and release the documents. Ms. Lopez said the agreements include “merit pay increases.”

Jim Walter, Lucas County assistant prosecutor, said Wednesday morning that the contracts were not public records until either approved by the county commissioners or after 30 days of inaction. He said it has been “the tradition” not to discuss union contracts until final approval and refused to cite what section of the Ohio Revised Code allowed him to deny a public records request by The Blade to inspect the documents. He later emailed the auditor’s office, reversing that position.

Ms. Lopez said she was proud of the agreements. “We were the first in the state of Ohio to negotiate merit-based pay,” she said. “The teamsters and the UAW agreed that raises will be based on performance. We are creating a new culture in government.”

UAW Local 12 has 53 clerical employees and Teamsters Local 20 has 11 supervisory employees working for Ms. Lopez. She said both unions have already voted to approve the agreements.

Under their existing contract, the UAW employees were rated on a 1-5 scale during 2012. Under the newly negotiated 2013 wage reopener, employees rated 4.5 or higher will get a 2 percent increase retroactive to Jan. 1, 2013. Those rated between a 4 and 4.499 will get a 1 percent retroactive pay increase. Twenty-one employees are eligible for the 1 percent increase and three employees are eligible for the 2 percent increase.

Ms. Lopez also agreed to a $1,000 lump-sum payment that she said was approved by the county commissioners in January for all county employees. The contract had already given all the UAW employees a 1 percent increase in 2011, which also happened under Ms. Lopez’s watch.

The Teamsters contract expired March 31, 2012. Under terms of the proposed new agreement, the employees get $1,000 and a 3 percent increase in 2013 retroactive to April 1, 2012. Ms. Lopez said after a pay freeze in 2014, they will be given performance-based raises in 2015 after being rated. The performance-based pay increase terms will be negotiated in a wage reopener for that union.

Ms. Lopez said the proposed raises in her office are justified because she has reduced staff since taking office. “We eliminated positions from 173 when I took office to 112 now,” she said. “That is 130 percent of our work force, so when they are doing more work with less dollars and less staff, and they are still able to perform and do more, those employees who have excelled should be rewarded ...”

Ms. Lopez has union support in her bid for the mayor’s office. Teamsters Local 20 hosted a fund-raiser for her on May 9, nine days after the contracts were sent to the commissioners for review.

The event packed the union’s headquarters along the Anthony Wayne Trail.

The county commissioners received the union agreements for review May 1. Commissioners Pete Gerken and Tina Skeldon-Wozniak declined to comment on the agreements, which could be approved, rejected, or ignored. If no vote is taken, they automatically become official after 30 days.

Commissioner Carol Contrada could not be reached for comment. UAW Region 2B International Representative Joe Rioux and Teamsters Local 20 President Bill Lichtenwald also could not be reached.

The proposed pay raises for Toledo councilmen and the mayor, which Ms. Lopez opposes, need approval from council to become official. They would not affect pay for the officials until after the next election.

Toledo’s salary review commission, which is required by city charter to meet once every four years, proposed that the mayor’s salary be increased 11 percent, to $136,000 from $122,400, and the salary of a councilman go up 18 percent, to $32,500 from $27,500.

Ms. Lopez attacked Mayor Mike Bell and Councilman Joe McNamara — two of her opponents for the mayor’s office — for supporting the proposed increases. The mayor has never voiced support; Mr. McNamara has consistently opposed raises for councilmen or the mayor.

Councilman D. Michael Collins, a candidate for mayor, said he opposes council and mayoral pay raises.

B.J. Fischer, a spokesman for Mr. Bell’s campaign, said the contracts showed poor leadership. He also cited Ms. Lopez’s campaign Web site that said she has lived in Toledo her whole life but she actually lived in Springfield Township for four years.

“This is the second time this week she has been noticed by The Blade for saying one thing and doing another,” Mr. Fischer said.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171, or on Twitter @ignaziomessina.



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