If politics or policy bore you, skip this. Otherwise, roll up your sleeves and read on.
A little background: In June 2011, a $350,000 hike in Apex government spending for across-the-board employee raises was supported by the mayor. Since early Nov. ‘11 and as recently as a Feb. 2012 council meeting, he’s repeatedly claimed he didn’t know the measure contained a raise for himself, and then blamed his ignorance on me and on Councilman Lance Olive.
With no desire to rehash campaign issues, I was content to let this go with the conclusion of the election. But his persistence forces me to defend myself.
So let’s take a look at the complacency or incompetence (or both) required for the mayor to unknowingly support a measure that increased his salary: the Five Failures needed to make such a blunder.
First, you should know that the salary hikes were originally proposed by Town staff in a 2011 meeting of the Personnel Committee, which I chaired. Councilman Olive was the other member on the Committee, and we opposed the plan (favoring one based on merit pay instead). At that meeting the Town Manager said the council would get raises, too. The Town Clerk wrote that down in the minutes of the meeting — and then gave a copy of the minutes to the mayor. If he didn’t read them – which he’s apparently admitting – that’s Failure No. 1.
Second, the mayor is the only elected official with an office at Town Hall, and his administration should operate pretty smoothly after his four terms in office. But it seems the mayor’s communication with the Town Manager, which ought to be regular and detailed, never included a thorough briefing on a $350,000 spending increase that personally impacted him. So there’s Failure No. 2.
Next we come to the actual vote during a regular council meeting. This is a time when staff, in this case from the town’s Human Resources Dept., is available to answer questions. Never did the mayor — with 18 years of experience on the town council — ask the questions needed to ensure he understood a plan he heavily supported. Failure No. 3.
So, now the pay raises have made their way into the annual budget. And the mayor has a copy of that budget and you’d think – you’d hope – that the mayor would make absolutely sure he knew where your tax dollars were going. Buck stops with him, right? Time to go over the thing with a fine tooth comb, know where all your money is being spent, correct? Guess not. That’s No. 4.
Finally (and this one really gets me), every two weeks we get a paycheck or direct deposit letter from the Town. And it has our pay listed as plain as day. And after his plan passed, his pay went up – by 10 percent! During a recession, when people are struggling financially and losing their jobs, his pay went up and he didn’t notice! From July onward it was on a piece of paper delivered in his mail. Real dollars – your dollars – were added to his bank account. And he never even noticed. Failure No. 5.
It wouldn’t be the first time someone had to pass legislation to know what was in it, but the mayor needs to have the maturity to stop blaming others and accept responsibility for failing to comprehend that he gave himself a raise.
Bryan Gossage served on the Apex Council from 2003-2011