Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Bell stands by raises in face of unions' ire

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell's decision to increase the salaries of a few top city officials has irked some union leaders and might cost some votes for a possible income tax increase in May, but he is sticking with the pay raises.

Steve Herwat, deputy mayor of operations, said the top-level employees were entitled to raises from promotions and because many are performing work that used to be handled by more than one person.

Mr. Herwat yesterday also said the Bell administration plans to finish its 2010 general fund budget by March 1 to balance a $43.8 million shortfall, and that it has identified $25 million in savings.



"We have trimmed $256,508 from the mayor's office in base salaries since the mayor took office," Mr. Herwat said.

The savings to the budget also will include paying some employees out of different city funds. They do not include any union concessions Mr. Bell has proposed or any added revenue from a proposed 0.25 percentage point increase to the 2.25 percent city income tax he wants to place on the May ballot.

Toledo City Council President Wilma Brown yesterday spoke in favor of the pay increases, saying they were justified because some of those employees were moved to higher positions by Mr. Bell.

Others were owed pay increases because former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner promoted them without increasing their pay, she said.

"He has reduced staff, and people need to get paid for what they do," she said. "I don't think you are going to be seeing that kind of raise anywhere right now, but they are doing the work for two or three people."

Ms. Brown said the mayor is trying "to do what's right" even if it is not the politically expedient thing to do.

Mr. Bell approved a pay increase for Peg Wallace, acting director of human resources. Her salary went up 26.9 percent, to $85,000, from what former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner had paid her when he elevated her to the position. She was promoted by Mr. Finkbeiner from a manager position to head of the human resources department, but her salary remained at manager level.

The salaries for Acting Law Director Adam Loukx and Commissioner of Taxation Clarence Coleman also were bumped up.

Mr. Loukx's pay rose to $89,000 annually from the $86,000 he was paid when Mr. Bell took office. Mr. Loukx's salary increased from $80,000 to $86,000 last year under Mr. Finkbeiner, when he was made acting law director in June.

The increase over the pay from mid-2009 is 11.2 percent, but Mr. Bell approved a 3.48 percent increase for Mr. Loukx.

Mr. Bell also approved a 10.7 percent raise to $77,500 a year for Mr. Coleman.

Mr. Herwat again stressed that all the nonunion employees would have to accept the same pay and benefit cuts Mr. Bell wants to negotiate with the unions once those concessions are in place. Those include a 10 percent wage cut, pension givebacks, and higher health insurance costs.

Don Czerniak, president of Local 7 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the city's largest union, doesn't think adding more work to a person's responsibilities is justification for a pay increase.

"Everything you hear is, 'Timing is everything,' and this is not the time to be doing that type of stuff," Mr. Czerniak said.

"When they are doing work for two or three people, some of my clerks are doing work for two or three people and they are not getting any additional money and they can't get the promotions," he said.

Mr. Czerniak said the former administration had no sympathy for union members wanting to be paid for extra workloads.

"They always said, 'If you don't like the money you are making go someplace else and find a job,' and obviously a lot of people are doing a lot of work they are not getting paid for, so why should they pick and choose?" he said.

Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, and Wayne Hartford, president of Firefighters Local 92, also were critical of the raises.

Union givebacks would be subject to a vote of the members.

Councilman George Sarantou, chairman of council's finance committee, acknowledged that the timing is not perfect but said the pay raises were justified.

He said top city officials, who are nonunion, are salary-capped under pay schedules in the municipal code, which has been unchanged since 1998.

Mr. Herwat, for example, is paid $90,000 a year. The most he could be paid according to the municipal code is $92,500.

By comparison, Lucas County Administrator Michael Beazley reached a five-year employment contract with the city of Oregon under which he will be paid $120,000 a year plus benefits and six weeks of vacation.

"Is the city of Oregon bigger than the city of Toledo? I don't think so," Mr. Sarantou said. "Granted, we are in tough economic times, but if the employment situation was better, we would find a lot of these people in other positions."

Mr. Bell hired a new finance director for the city, Patrick McLean, who is also paid $90,000 a year.

The Bowling Green finance director, Brian Bushong, has worked in that Wood County city of fewer than 30,000 people since July 23, 2007, and is paid $88,899 annually.

Mr. Sarantou also said some Toledo commissioners and directors receive less pay than city union members who can get paid for overtime.

The other top city employees who received salary increases along with promotions from Mr. Bell are:

•Valerie Robertson, who was promoted from acting commissioner to acting director of information technology. Her pay increased from $69,992 to $76,500.

•Dave Welch, who was promoted from commissioner of streets, bridges, and harbor to director of public service. His pay increased from $73,998 to $80,500.

•Amy Wood, who was promoted from manager of solid waste to acting commissioner of solid waste. Her pay went from $62,000 to $70,000.

Mr. Bell also increased the pay of two administrative assistants in the mayor's office. Felicia "Lesa" James, who was paid $45,289 as an administrative assistant under Mr. Finkbeiner, is now paid $58,331, and Carmen Watkins' city pay increased from $45,289 to $58,331 when she became the administrative assistant to Mr. Bell.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

or 419-724-6171.

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