Spokane City Manager Roger Crum never got around to telling his bosses about a proposed salary hike for himself and 15 other top city managers.
The increase almost slipped past council members unnoticed into the 1996 spending plan. They didn’t know about the thousands of dollars in proposed raises until they read about them in the newspaper Monday.
Before passing next year’s budget that night, the council unanimously shot down the across-the-board pay hikes. The top six administrators were slated for 2.75 percent increases and the next 10 would have gotten 3.25 percent raises.
Irate council members froze all non-union managerial pay increases for 90 days, referring discussions about how to increase pay to a special mayor-appointed committee.
“We didn’t know about it until we read it,” Mayor Jack Geraghty said Tuesday. “Frankly, the council was miffed that it just came in at the last minute.”
“This was a terrible move on Roger’s part,” said Councilman Chris Anderson. “Every one of us was scooped - we who are supposed to be in the know.”
Crum said Tuesday he planned to tell the council about the pay hikes during Monday’s briefing session. The decision to include the increases hadn’t been made until late Thursday or early Friday, he said.
“I planned to tell them at the briefing, but until then, we weren’t sure if (the raises were) viable,” the city manager said.
“I have to make recommendations on what administrative people ought to be earning, and that was my recommendation.”
Geraghty said the compensation committee is the way to go - not last-minute raises tucked into the budget without discussion.
“What we really should be looking at is what is the bottom-line productivity and where should the salaries be pegged,” Geraghty said. “They should be paid subject to their responsibility.”
Money problems forced cuts in nearly every city department. The 1996 spending plan adopted by the council drops the DARE drug-education program at midyear as well as an eight-person fire rescue squad.
Crum’s proposed pay increases came just two days before city library directors plan to discuss laying off employees. Trustees will meet today to talk about layoffs and increasing library fees.
In addition, property owners will see both their taxes and their utility bills jump next year.
Crum’s early budget drafts presented to the council showed contract-negotiated increases for union employees - including 3.25 percent for the firefighters and police unions still in negotiations.
No draft showed a management salary hike.
“We were all under the assumption - it had been related to us - that among top management salaries, there would be no increase,” Geraghty said. Managers wanted “to send a message to hold the line to the other unions,” the mayor said.
Anderson said he had asked nearly every day if there were changes in the budget proposal he should know about. “No one ever mentioned an increase.”
In fact, Crum didn’t say anything about pay hikes during an 11th-hour budget session last Thursday.
News of the increase sparked an emergency closed-door session during Monday’s briefing, at which council members discussed “what kind of response publicly we wanted to make to Roger,” Anderson said. “There was not a council member there who wasn’t livid.”
The council agreed to dump the pay increase before voting on the budget, he said.
Anderson said Crum told council members he hadn’t had time to tell them about the proposed increases.
Crum said the decision was made late because he had hoped union leaders would be willing to give up negotiated pay hikes this year due to the “tough year.”
When the leaders said no way to that, Crum said he proposed raising salaries for 10 managers not in unions. Because unionized managers are getting cost-of-living increases, the non-union managers shouldn’t be punished, he said.
“We don’t want to send the message that you must join a union to get a pay raise,” Crum said.
As for the other six who include himself, that group doesn’t have “union counterparts. That would have to be discussed (by the council) that night at the budget hearing, obviously,” Crum said.
Geraghty said he was upset to learn of Crum’s proposal. He, too, blamed union-negotiated pay increases for driving management salaries higher.
There are only 18 non-union city employees - and 16 of them are top managers, Geraghty said. As union salaries increase, “they’re getting close to” top-level salaries.
“Management went through a lot of trouble fighting to keep those 16 people out of the union,” Geraghty said. “We’re certainly not interested in forcing them to organize.”
Dropping the management salary increase from next year’s budget left a lot of unhappy people in the council chambers Monday, Geraghty said.
The mayor said the council has no plans to take disciplinary action against Crum.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Proposed pay raises for top city employees