Omaha City Council members are weighing their options after learning that Mayor Jim Suttle awarded pay raises to some top administration officials earlier this year.
Suttle proposed the pay hikes in his 2013 budget, but some of them went into effect in January without the council's knowledge.
The raises contradict a pledge that Suttle made to freeze wages for his staff and department heads throughout his term.
One council member is working on a resolution that calls for lowering pay raises for top city officials — the highest of which was 20 percent — to 1.75 percent.
The resolution, if adopted, would not be binding, said Councilwoman Jean Stothert, who is running for mayor.
“There may be no recourse,” she said. “He could ignore that resolution. But if it were passed, it would still state what the City Council's position is.”
Council President Tom Mulligan said he's mulling a resolution that would reduce each department's budget by roughly the amount of the pay raises.
Again, such a resolution might not have much of an effect.
“We could take the money away, but at the end of the day it's his (Suttle's) decision how it gets spent,” he said.
Mulligan said he also would consider an ordinance requiring the mayor at least to tell the council when pay raises are enacted. Such an ordinance may not be enforceable, since the jobs are set out in the City Charter as “unclassified.”
Unclassified employees' job descriptions, wages and hours are set at the discretion of the mayor.
Council members also raised questions about the source of the pay raises. The mayor is allowed to increase pay for his staff and department heads, so long as each department stays within its budget. Some wondered if that's what had taken place.
City Finance Director Pam Spaccarotella, one of those receiving a $25,000 raise, said none of the raises given by Suttle caused a department to go over budget.
She said the raises came from the general fund, though she didn't offer specifics. She said the Mayor's Office was on pace to come in under its budget.
“Either they've underspent on the nonpersonnel side, or they've had positions that are vacant or have been left open,” she said. “All I can tell you is, people are watching their budgets.”
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