Scaling back salary increases given quietly to a group of city administrators isn't as straightforward as it seems.
Mayor Jim Suttle's office promised this week to honor a City Council effort to rescind some top officials' pay raises by cutting the personnel budgets in their departments.
But that won't apply to Library Director Gary Wasdin. The Mayor's Office said it doesn't have the authority to undo Wasdin's roughly $10,000 pay hike.
Stuart Chittenden, president of the Omaha Public Library board of trustees, said the board has “perfectly reasonable reasons for setting his salary where we did.”
“We can't, as a board, go back and change Gary's salary,” Chittenden said. “We voted on that in a public meeting. That's been in place since January. The council's vote is chronologically ridiculous.”
Aida Amoura, the mayor's spokeswoman, said a $25,000 salary bump for Steve Oltmans, Suttle's chief of staff, will likely be reversed by next week.
Raises given to Finance Director Pam Spaccarotella and Public Works Director Bob Stubbe will be withdrawn on Jan. 1, 2013, when the newly-approved city budget takes effect.
The council's budget amendment on salaries — unanimously approved on Tuesday — wasn't necessarily binding because the mayor generally has authority to direct a department's spending as long as it doesn't go over budget.
“I would say, right now, we were asked to cut those salaries back by the City Council, so we're cooperating,” Amoura said. “And these directors are cooperating, too.”
Yet for the Omaha Public Library, a city ordinance grants its board of trustees the authority to hire or fire a director and to set the director's salary.
Wasdin was hired in January 2010 at a $115,000 annual salary. In 2011, the board voted to give him a roughly $4,000 bump in line with other staff raises given that year. In January 2012, after an evaluation, the board voted to raise Wasdin's salary to $129,737.
“Although funds to pay the executive director's salary come from taxpayer funds ... neither the Mayor nor the City Council have the authority to settle or recommend a salary,” the board said in a statement last month.
While the library board voted on Wasdin's raise, the council's action means the library director will have to find room in his personnel budget to accommodate his salary. The council voted to strip $18,092 in funding.
Chittenden, who specified that his comments were not necessarily intended to reflect the entire board's view, said it's not yet clear where the money will come from.
“They specifically cut that money as a direct attempt to curtail Gary's salary,” Chittenden said of the council. “But the fact of the matter is, they don't decide Gary's raise, nor does the Mayor's Office.”
The mayor's proposed 2013 budget appeared to build in several administrative pay raises.
But those pay increases — which ranged from $9,000 to $25,000 — were implemented earlier. The current 2012 budget, which Suttle proposed and the council approved last year, doesn't include the higher salaries.
Suttle apologized for the way the salary increases were revealed. He said they were designed to reward stellar work by each official. Amoura said the mayor was reluctant to eliminate the pay raises.
“How would you like to have rewarded someone for doing such a great job and then have to take it back?” she said. “These directors and the mayor have all conceded that we've just got to move on.”
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