WARNER ROBINS — The City Council voted Monday night to unanimously approve a resolution that essentially legitimizes a vote taken in 2007 to raise the mayor’s salary to $100,000.
The mayor’s salary became an issue in September when then-Mayor Donald Walker told the council his raise from $50,000 to $100,000 established at the Jan. 4, 2007, meeting wasn’t properly carried out.
“One of the matters of the Jan. 4, 2007, motion to increase the mayor’s salary is that it wasn’t done by adoption of (an) ordinance,” City Attorney Jim Elliott said. “There was a motion by Dean Cowart to raise mayor’s salary … and a vote.”
Mayor John Havrilla said the current council’s resolution is being done because the council, at the time, was in “substantial compliance” of the actions necessary to raise the rate of pay for the city’s leader.
“It appears the defect didn’t harm our decision,” Havrilla said. “To me, the people that are (on the council) right now … need to step up to the plate and say, ‘Yes, this action was legitimately done.’ ’’
The city sought opinions from legal entities on the matter of whether the mayor’s raise was properly instituted. Officials at the state level told city officials they had the authority to fix the issue.
“No mayor, especially our mayor, should make $50,000 a year,” said councilman John Williams.
The resolution will be signed this month, but Havrilla said the raise goes into effect Jan. 1, 2008 and includes everyone who was mayor in the time since. That includes Havrilla, who said when announcing the investigation that he had accepted a $50,000 salary for the position to make sure he would owe nothing if a ruling threw out the efforts of the council in 2007 to raise the salary. He said he will seek to be repaid the remainder of the salary for the time he has been mayor.
“I should be treated like everybody who will benefit,” he said.
The decision comes just weeks before Mayor-elect Chuck Shaheen is scheduled to be sworn into office. Shaheen has said he wasn’t running for mayor because of the salary, but mentioned his family would have to rethink their budget should the salary remain at $50,000.
Had the salary been set at $50,000, it would have meant money was owed to Shaheen, Chuck Chalk and Councilman Clifford Holmes Jr., who all paid $3,090 — the amount to qualify for the seat if the salary was $100,000 — to qualify for the 2009 mayor’s race.
Havrilla said the salary solution is another in a line of things he wanted to complete before the new mayor was seated.
“I believe it’s the right thing to do,” Havrilla said. “To do otherwise would create confusion in the past and detract from business that needs to be accomplished in the future.”
The mayor and council also approved 3-percent merit raises for some city employees for the 2010 fiscal year and a new sign ordinance.