The proposed pay raise for Mount Sterling village mayor and council members is dead, and one council member believes it was illegal to vote upon it, anyway.
Members agreed during Monday’s council meeting to table the ordinance, which would have nearly doubled the mayor’s salary, increasing it from $7,500 to $14,000 per year. The measure would have also raised council members’ stipend from $100 per month to $150, and increased the president pro temp’s stipend from $150 to $175 per month.
Mayor Charlie Neff suggested members table the legislation, which he said if not approved by the end of year would be dead, according to Robert’s Rules of Order — a guide to legislative procedure. All council members approved the action.
Following the vote, council member Diane Spradlin presented information from the Ohio Ethics Commission which stated the ordinance was illegal. She provided some detail during the round table discussion near the end of the meeting.
Reading from an opinion provided by the Ohio Ethics Commission, Spradlin read that Ohio law “prohibits all municipal officers of a statutory city or village, including a mayor, law director, president of council, and council members, from authorizing, or using the authority or influence of their office, formally or informally, to enact an ordinance that will increase the compensation to which they are entitled in their next term of office, after knowing that they have been re-elected to the office, but prior to the beginning of their new term.”
Further, Spradlin said she sought the council of attorney John Rawski with the Ohio Ethics Commission.
In an email, he presented her with another section of Ohio law that read that compensation must be fixed “… at a meeting held not later than five days prior to the last day fixed by law for filing as a candidate for such office.”
The law continues, “… The compensation so fixed shall not be increased or diminished during the term for which any officer is elected or appointed.”
Based on that law, the ordinance on the pay raises would have had to have been in place five days prior to Aug. 5, 2015 — the filing deadline for mayoral candidates beginning a term in January 2016, according to the Madison County Board of Elections.
Neff said he had not been aware of the timeline. He said Tuesday the discussion about raises for council and mayor had begun in June.
“We delayed putting it in front of council and time got past us,” Neff said. “We lost the time line.”
Neff said village solicitor Mark Pitstick “thought it was OK.”
Neff added, “I have no intention of bringing it back.”
Paul Nick, executive director of the Ohio Ethics commission, advised consulting the village solicitor on how that statute needs to be applied when reached by the Press Tuesday.
“We don’t have the authority to comment on it,” Nick said. “He (village solicitor) can give an authoritative interpretation.”
Dean Shipley can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617, on Facebook at Dean Shipley or via Twitter @DeanAShipley.
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