Mount Sterling Village Council held a special meeting Thursday to vote on legislation that would adopt the current, unauthorized pay of six village employees as the standard rates. After some passionate statements made by most council members, the resolution failed 3-2.
This action effectively rolls back the salaries that were granted improperly by fired village administrator John Martin last year.
At the regular meeting on Monday, council rejected a resolution to rescind the unauthorized pay raises made by Martin, also by a 3-2 vote. The raises ranged from 10 cents to $7.25 an hour and were given, without council’s approval, to six village employees starting in May 2016. Following Monday’s meeting, council decided that they could not allow the raises to remain without an official vote of approval by council.
“Since (the rates) were not approved, my position, which has not changed, is that they were unauthorized, they were illegal because it was up to council,” said councilwoman Diane Spradlin. “I’m not going to go forward with something that does not align with the ORC (Ohio Revised Code).”
Spradlin was one of two members who voted on Monday’s failed resolution to rescind the raises. She and councilwoman Rebecca Burns, who also voted for the rescinding, maintained that moving forward without an official vote would mean to move forward by illegal means.
“After Monday’s meeting, we figured out that we could not be paying illegal rates,” said Burns. “We have to pay what is legal.” Since council voted against rescinding the higher rates, Resolution 2017-23 was drafted Wednesday and brought to the special meeting Thursday for a first reading. Had it not have been voted down, the resolution would have gone through two more readings and, if passed, would have made the higher wages the village’s new standard.
In order to understand the range of the pay increases, the village’s fiscal officer, Courtney Bricker, did some research into the pay rates of villages of similar size to Mount Sterling such as Leesburg and South Charleston and found the rates to be comparable given the size of those places. This information helped inform the decision to bring the rates back to their previous level. Burns added that it was necessary to gather the information and decide on the rates before next week.
“Our next payday is Nov. 1 and we needed to figure this out before that,” she said. “I hope the village employees understand why this is necessary.”
The votes against adopting the resolution were cast by Burns, Spradlin and David Timmons. During Monday’s meeting, Timmons originally voted in favor of the raises remaining in place but said that he had to think of the people in the village first.
“I thought hard about this over the last two days. I’ve lived in the village all my life,” he said. “I had to do what’s right for the people of this village.” With the decision to roll back the unauthorized raises, the council members said this is a way to get the village back to square one.
The state auditor’s office declared the village in a “fiscal emergency” after Joe Johnson, the predecessor to John Martin, pleaded guilty to theft in office involving more than $700,000 in January. With that and the recent termination of Martin, the village is again under investigation by the state auditor’s office — the results of which will be presented to council at another special meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 1 at 2 p.m. in the village town hall.
Council has no plans to fill the village administrator’s seat until after the new mayor and council members are elected and take office next year.