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Pay hike for council likely nixed

By Staff | May 13, 2011

It’s still unclear what charter amendments will make it onto the ballot in November but the issue of giving members of the Cape Coral City Council a pay increase could be left out in the cold.
Conversation among council members leaned toward rejecting the pay raise during a special meeting Friday, citing the current economy and the recent pay cuts taken by city employees as reasons to leave the proposal off the ballot.
Mayor John Sullivan said an increased salary might one day attract different, younger candidates for city council, but the current economic climate doesn’t allow for a pay increase, which would have taken effect in 2013 and represented a 67 percent increase if approved by voters.
“We’re asking residents / employees to give up part of their pay … I don’t see how we can do this.”
The mayor said. “It’s a good idea, but not now.”
Yet the mayor stood by his desire to see the city council have control of the City Clerk’s office, as well as gain disciplinary power over police officers facing disciplinary issues.
Sullivan said giving the council that power over police officers will keep residents from fearing retribution from filing complaints.
“There have been abuses of power,” he said of the city’s police officers.
Police Chief Jay Murphy said residents shouldn’t fear filing complaints.
“If you have a serious complaint, sign your name to the piece of paper, we’ll investigate it and it will be public record,” Murphy said.
City Attorney Dolores Menendez said police officers are protected under a law enforcement officer bill of rights that prevents them from being disciplined by governing bodies like city council.
Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz offered an alternative suggestion to the pay raise issue, saying that future pay increases could be tied to the amount that council lowers the millage rate for citizens.
His example included offering $5,000 bonuses for each mill council drops from the millage rate.
The suggestion didn’t gain much traction on council, as Councilmember Bill Delie suggested adopting that method would allow for “mischief” during the budget process.
But Deile did suggest that giving city council control of the clerk’s office would cause union contractual complications.
“I see the problem of bringing a bunch of people that are union members and bringing it under council,” Deile said. “We run into contract issues and discipline problems with that.”
City council is set to vote on many of the proposed amendment changes Monday.
The Charter Review Committee worked on the proposed changes since late last year. City council could delay its votes on the charter changes Monday, but the clock is ticking to make sure the items are made available for voters to decide in November.