Commissioners agree to stay at current salary

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

Updated: December 21, 2010, 11:07 PM

 

Clark County commissioners Tuesday made good on a promise to turn down a scheduled 2011 salary increase.

While it wasn’t a matter of simply freezing their salaries (the timing would be unconstitutional), commissioners said they would authorize the county to deduct the extra $2,000 they were scheduled to receive from their pay and put it into the county’s general fund.

The same goes for their car allowances, which were scheduled to be increased to $600 a month.

Currently, Commissioners Tom Mielke and Marc Boldt earn $500 a month for a car allowance while Commissioner Steve Stuart earns $400 a month.

Stuart’s rate is different because he’s on a different election cycle and did not receive the boost the last time allowances were increased.

Last week, Mielke and Boldt said they would have their car allowances reduced to $400.

During their last weekly meeting of the year Tuesday, Boldt and Stuart voted 2-0 on a resolution to pay themselves at the 2010 annual rate of $98,224.

Mielke did not attend because he’s on vacation, but Stuart said Mielke had agreed to what amounts to a pay freeze.

The car allowance schedule had been adopted in 2008 and the salary schedule, which runs through 2014, in 2007.

When questioned about the scheduled increases last week, commissioners said they were going to take them even though the county employees have had their salaries frozen for 2011.

The next day, commissioners changed their minds.

In Tuesday’s resolution, elected county officials whose salaries are tied to the commissioners’ are asked to “make the same voluntary contributions from their salaries so that their effective salaries remain at the 2010 level” and to authorize that the “contributions” go into the county general fund.

The decision affects Auditor Greg Kimsey, Assessor-elect Peter Van Nortwick, Treasurer Doug Lasher and Clerk-elect Scott Weber. They earn 95 percent of a commissioner’s salary.

The decision also affects Sheriff Garry Lucas, who earns the same salary as a commissioner.

All of them said Tuesday they will authorize the payroll deductions.

Lasher said he will consider having his money put in a dedicated fund, such as one that goes to help orphaned children in Clark County, rather than the county general fund.

The decision does not affect judges and the prosecuting attorney, whose salaries are set by the state.

After the meeting, Kimsey said a separate general fund account will be set up for the donations by the elected officials.

Administrator Bill Barron said he will keep a copy of the letter each elected official signs to authorize the payroll deductions.

State law prohibits commissioners from changing their own salaries or salaries of other elected officials mid-term.

Last week, commissioners said they would send a letter to the governor and state Legislature explaining the action and ask for executive support.

But that wouldn’t be good enough, Curt Wyrick, the chief deputy prosecuting attorney, said Tuesday. It wouldn’t change the fact that commissioners were running afoul of the state constitution and no executive letter of support could fix that.

A handful of county residents spoke Tuesday.

They criticized commissioners for not mentioning the scheduled pay raise during public hearings earlier this month on the 2011-12 budget.

“We didn’t deal with it and we should have,” Stuart said. “We are dealing with it now … and we are doing it legally.”

“We were wrong, and that’s just it,” Boldt said after the vote. “I never worked so hard to not get a raise.”

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.