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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane mayor’s budget plan includes raises for himself, his cabinet

Salaries of Spokane mayor and Cabinet members. (Molly Quinn)

Spokane Mayor David Condon already makes more money than Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Next year, if his proposed pay raise gets approved by the City Council, he’ll make more than his former boss, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

The $7,000 raise will bring his annual pay to nearly $180,000, and the increase is part of the mayor’s proposed 2015 city budget released this week. He’s not the only one set to receive a bump in pay. The 14 people in Condon’s Cabinet, including the mayor, are getting on average a 2 percent increase in pay.

“My salary is determined by the city charter, in which I have no involvement,” Condon said in a statement. “Spokane taxpayers deserve a mayor who works tirelessly for them and that’s what I intend to continue doing.”

The city charter says the mayor’s salary “shall be” equal to the highest-paid city employee.” Only the city administrator is allowed to make more – though City Administrator Theresa Sanders will earn about $47,000 less than Condon next year under the budget proposal.

In recent history, the highest-paid city worker beside the city administrator has been Fire Chief Bobby Williams, whose $172,573 salary was matched by the mayor this year. Next year, the mayor proposes giving police Chief Frank Straub an $8,500 raise to $179,484, which Condon’s salary will match.

Brian Coddington, the mayor’s spokesman, said Straub’s salary is determined by city law. Coddington said the chief’s salary increases are tied to that of the union that represents lieutenants and captains. The City Council approved an agreement with the union last week.

Councilman Mike Fagan said the timing of the raises “could not have been worse” considering upcoming labor negotiations.

“If I have a problem giving the employee unions raises, I probably have a problem giving the Cabinet raises,” Fagan said, noting that agreements with the city’s largest union as well as the firefighters union are coming soon. “If we find out that this is a merit pay increase, I’d have a little bit of heartburn with that.”

Other than the mayor and police and fire chiefs, the highest-paid city employees include City Attorney Nancy Isserlis and utilities chief Rick Romero.

Four of the six Cabinet members who won’t be offered a pay raise are women. Coddington said they were at the top of the pay grade and ineligible for a pay raise, unlike the department leaders who received a raise.

The mayor’s salary has been the subject of scrutiny before. Condon’s predecessor, Mary Verner, voluntarily capped her salary at $100,000 during her four years in office. Two days before the end of her tenure at City Hall, she requested $140,000 in back pay, which was denied. Since the budget had already been approved, Condon held his salary at $100,000 during his first year in office.

Former mayors Jim West and Dennis Hession also held down their salary against the advice of the city attorney’s office.

In 2013, Condon’s salary jumped to $169,538. This year, it increased to $172,573.

With the proposed 2015 raise, Condon still won’t be the highest-paid mayor in the state, since Seattle Mayor Ed Murray makes $182,333. However, Condon will be one of the highest-paid city leaders in the Pacific Northwest. The mayor of Boise brings in $110,000. Portland’s mayor makes $131,560.

“The mayor giving himself such a raise seems a little outrageous,” Councilman Jon Snyder said. “To have Spokane’s mayor be paid the same as Seattle’s mayor seems a little out of whack.”

Like Fagan, Snyder said the pay increases “undermine” union negotiations.

Councilwoman Candace Mumm said the council will be looking at the budget more closely in the next few weeks but wasn’t pleased with the Cabinet raises.

“I do have some questions whether these raises for top brass are really the best use of our tax dollars right now,” she said. “Especially since the council asked for more funding for community centers, public safety and human services, and those requests have not been met by the budget proposal.”