Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Mayor bars city officials from evening meetings


The mayor said council’s inaction showed it didn’t care about those employees and that he wouldn’t “abuse those people” any longer.

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Mayor Mike Bell has upped the ante in the growing conflict with Toledo City Council over executive pay ranges for top city officials and lawyers — something the two sides have acrimoniously batted back and forth for more than six weeks.

The mayor issued a directive Wednesday barring city officials from attending city council-sponsored events after 5 p.m.

“Basically these people are spending their own time after their eight-hour day going to meetings and not receiving any overtime,” Mr. Bell said. “There is no set schedule for these meetings and council sets them.”

Council on Tuesday rejected a compromise proposal that Mayor Bell had offered in an attempt to increase executive pay levels for 70 top city positions. Only two of 12 councilmen — Mike Craig and Adam Martinez — voted in favor of an amendment to the Bell administration’s original plan to increase the ranges 15 percent. Mayor Bell’s original proposal was then sent back to committee, where it is expected to stay.

The mayor said council’s inaction showed it didn’t care about those employees and that he wouldn’t “abuse those people” any longer.

“If this had been a group [of] union members, they would have torn this council chamber down to the ground, but these employees have no voice, so [council] can ignore them,” Mr. Bell said.

The mayor said top city officials would still attend evening events that he schedules or sponsors.

“The difference is that I am the mayor and these people work for me,” he said.

The last time the city adjusted executive pay ranges, with the exception of the police and fire chiefs, was 1998.

Councilman Tyrone Riley held a meeting at Mott Branch Library Wednesday evening on setting up a new Block Watch. Police Chief Derrick Diggs was supposed to attend but canceled.

Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat left Councilman D. Michael Collins a 16-second voice message Wednesday telling him that officials from the Bell administration would not attend his 6 p.m. Oct. 23 law and criminal justice committee meeting to talk about Fire Station 3, which was closed because of structural problems.

“Directors, commissioners, and managers are only allowed to talk to councilmen with the permission of the deputy mayor, and in terms of public safety, the chiefs are not allowed to talk to the chairman of the safety committee unless the director says it’s OK,” Mr. Collins said. “This is so juvenile it’s sickening. ... He is obliviously very angry about this.”

Councilman Steven Steel said the mayor’s directive would only hurt residents.

“Why is he trying to squeeze the citizens?” Mr. Steel said.

Mr. Bell said councilmen could bring their own staffers and still send constituent complaints to the mayor’s office.

Councilmen have urged the mayor to adjust salaries before asking to increase the permissible ranges, because many are not at the top of their pay scales.

The mayor’s legislation originally introduced six weeks ago would have increased pay ranges for deputy mayors, directors, commissioners, managers, and attorneys by 18 to 20 percent, depending on the position. It also had built-in automatic increases to the ranges — not particular salaries.

Mr. Collins offered to increase the ranges 10 percent with several strings attached — suggesting current salary ranges remain in effect until the first full pay period of 2014, when they would be increased 10 percent. His proposal also eliminated the 5 percent “pension pickup” for those employees effective Jan. 1, 2013; employees would have to pay the same medical-premium increases as some union members, and they would be paid a one-time $1,250 stipend.

Mr. Collins said Tuesday night that Mayor Bell had “blindsided” him last week with a counterproposal to his counterproposal.

Council President Joe McNamara said meetings are scheduled in the evening so people who work daytime shifts can attend.

“I think there is definitely some tension because of council’s reaction to the pay range increase, and that it’s bad for the citizens of Toledo,” Mr. McNamara said. “Elected officials need to put their egos aside and figure out what is best to move the city forward.”

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.

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