Three City Commissioners Vote Themselves Another Raise
Deputy Mayor Gibson, Commissioner Howell Vote "NO"
Last updated 8/4/2022 at 1:13pm
On a split vote, Lake Wales City Commissioners Tuesday evening voted themselves an annual raise of $2,400 intended to pay for the cost of local travel and expenses. City Manager James Slaton had proposed the increase at a commission work session last week, saying those expenses were often incurred by commissioners in the course of their duties.
Newly-elected Commissioner Danny Krueger argued in favor of the raise, complaining that his 547 miles of travel around the city since he took office in May has meant that he "worked one month for nothing."
The City Charter says raises can't take effect until new commission terms begin, but no sooner than six months after the ordinance is adopted, stating that "the annual fiscal salary of commission members shall be Six Thousand Three Hundred Twenty-Three Dollars and Twenty-Seven Cents ($6,323.27) for a commissioner..." That ordinance was adopted last year but became effective only May 4 after the most recent election, making Krueger among the first to serve at the higher rate..
According to that clause, "The commission may determine the annual salary of commission members by ordinance, but no ordinance increasing such salary shall become effective until the date of commencement of the terms of the commission member(s) elected at the next regular election, provided that such election follows the adoption of such ordinance by at least six (6) months."
No mention of that requirement was made during the meeting.
Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson and Commissioner Terrye Howell voted against the increase, allowing it to pass on a 3-2 vote. The current annual rate has been about $4,817 for commissioners and $7,226, for the mayor, who also receives a $300 per month car allowance. It was unclear if the mayor will continue to receive that extra travel funding considering the new increase.
Gibson, who frequently travels for fact-finding to cities across Florida and as far away as North Carolina, remained in opposition to the blanket award, which would eliminate any requirement to track local travel or meal expenses.
"Number one, I don't want the flak," Gibson said. "It's not supported by receipts or anything like that, and it's distinct from going to conferences and staying overnight and registration fees, that's (already) covered," he said.
Howell also took issue with the raise, saying "the last time we were given a raise, it was for what we are talking about now, compensating for the travel."
"Anyone who thinks that the city commissioners are overpaid," Krueger said, "I have a suggestion. Run for office, become a city commissioner, and after two or three months, then rethink your decision." Krueger has been on the job three months.
Mayor Jack Hilligoss and Commissioner Daniel Williams also voted for the increase.
The city commission normally meets a total of five times a month, with two agenda workshop sessions and two business meetings. They also sit as the Community Redevelopment Agency one a month.