Council rolls back raises for employees

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(Posted Nov. 1, 2017)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Wages for six Mount Sterling village employees are going back to what they were prior to May 2016.

Village council met in special session on Oct. 26, at which time they voted 3-2 against approving wages that included unauthorized raises. Rebecca Burns, Diane Spradlin and David Timmons cast the three “no” votes. Jim Davis and Mary Lou Stiverson voted “yes.”

The vote essentially reversed the decision council made at a meeting on Oct. 23 to keep the wages as they stood. At that time, Timmons voted in favor of maintaining the wages with the unauthorized raises, as did Davis and Stiverson.

It was determined on Oct. 24 that the Oct. 23 vote left unauthorized wages on the books. A council vote setting each employee’s pay rate was required for the wages to become official. Timmons changed his stance on the issue for the Oct. 26 vote, resulting in the immediate rollback of wages for six village employees.

Courtney Bricker, the village’s fiscal officer, discovered the unauthorized wages earlier this fall when John Martin, former village administrator, asked her to implement an anniversary raise for an employee. Bricker determined that council had not approved the raise. Subsequently, it was discovered that Martin had not only given unauthorized raises to employees on the anniversary of their hire dates, but also had given unauthorized raises ranging from 10 cents per hour to $7 per hour starting in May 2016. Following the discovery of the unauthorized raises, council voted to terminate Martin’s contract.

According to Burns, the village was spending over $37,000 per year on the unauthorized raises. To continue do so, she said, would be “irresponsible.”

“I value the employees and I can understand how this is hard for them, but we are a political entity in fiscal emergency,” Burns said. “We are responsible to the taxpayers and and the village to make sound financial decisions.”

At the Oct. 23 meeting, Burns stated research shows that, at the rates in place prior to May 2016, Mount Sterling village employees receive pay comparable to or higher than employees doing the same type of work in other area villages.

On Oct. 26, Timmons referred to this information prior to casting his vote, saying, “I think the wages are good enough.”

Stiverson argued that because the village has been able to pay the wages with the raises that they should continue to do so, instead of rolling them back. She said the way the village treats its employees reflects on how it treats its citizenry.

She suggested that council freeze those employees’ pay rates until 2019.

Spradlin objected to Stiverson’s suggestion, saying a freeze would hamstring the new council and mayor taking office after the November election. She said such a move would “compound the absurdity” of the situation in the public’s eye.

“It speaks to the dysfunction of their local government to go back and forth, back and forth,” Spradlin said.

She also stated that she was against approving wages that included unauthorized raises. She deemed the raises to be illegal.

“I’m not going forward with something not abiding by the ORC (Ohio Revised Code),” Spradlin said.

After council voted against approving the wages with the raises, Mark Pitstick, village solicitor, confirmed that the vote required an immediate rollback to the wages being paid prior to May 2016. The change was implemented with the Nov. 1 payroll.

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