Save this content for laterSave this content on your device for later, even while offline Sign in with FacebookSign in with your Facebook account Close

Council members ticked by mayor's sudden pay policy demand

December 12, 2011

An attempt by Mayor Steve Bach to suspend what he calls “automatic” pay increases for city employees led to a tense exchange with some City Council members Monday.

Council members criticized the mayor for proposing long-lasting changes to the city’s civilian personnel Policies and Procedures Manual with little time to study them.

“It’s just an example of something coming at us quick,” said Councilman Val Snider, echoing a sentiment that other council members have expressed about Bach in the past.

Bach apologized for bringing the proposed changes to council “at the last minute.”

But Bach said it was only recently that he discovered that employees were still getting merit increases. However, his 2012 budget included $1.3 million for that purpose.

“The point here is that we have at least one department where half of the people are due for a 5 percent increase the first of January,” Bach said. “How many people in this audience who don’t work for government are getting a 5 percent increase? Raise your hand? Nobody.”

Bach, who called for a salary freeze after taking office, said he found out about the ongoing merit increases after a council member that he didn’t identify sent him an email from City Auditor Denny Nester in which Nester proposed a salary increase for one of his employees.

Bach said he could exercise other powers if the council didn’t change the so-called PPM.

“The charter currently grants the mayor the sole authority to lay people off, to terminate people,” he said.

“I have that authority today if I need to, and frankly, if these automatic increases continue and we have a difficult revenue year and we are left with no choice but to grant these automatic increases or make changes to the size of the workforce, I will make that decision,” he said. “I will make it if I have to.”

The policy states that “an employee whose performance is satisfactory or better shall be eligible for increases in their base rate of pay.” The mayor wants to change the word “shall” to “may,” among other changes.

“The word ‘shall’ is the one that eliminates any discretion,” City Attorney Chris Melcher said.
Council members said they weren’t necessarily opposed to the proposed changes, just the way they were handled by the mayor.

Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin said the council received documents about the proposed changes on Wednesday to prepare for Monday’s discussion. By Monday, she said, the proposal had changed and focused only on one specific policy.

“Mr. Mayor, I’m not saying that I wouldn’t support (the proposed changes), but this method of doing it just doesn’t work. You’re asking for a major change here,” she said.

Councilwoman Brandy Williams questioned the timing, saying she brought up the mayor’s salary freeze when airport officials talked about salary increases earlier this year. Williams said the mayor was sitting in council chambers during that discussion.

“I’m not entirely sure why it hasn’t come up until now,” she said. “Next time when I bring those questions up, I’ll just keep calling you. ‘Mayor, have you figured this out? Mayor, have you figured this out?’”

The council eventually agreed to try to find a way to suspend the merit increases for civilian employees next year without changing the Policies and Procedures Manual.

The proposed change would not affect sworn personnel, such as police officers and firefighters, who are poised to receive about $550,000 in merit increases next year.

Contact Daniel Chacón: 476-1623
Twitter @danieljchacon
Facebook Daniel Chacon

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Incognito Mode Your browser is in Incognito mode

You vanished!

We welcome you to read all of our stories by signing into your account. If you don't have a subscription, please subscribe today for daily award winning journalism.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

Some news is free.
Exceptional journalism takes time, effort and your support.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

articles remaining
Thank you for your interest in local journalism.
Gain unlimited access, 50% fewer ads and a faster browsing experience.