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News / Clark County News

Vancouver salary panel reverses cut to mayor pro tem pay

By Stephanie Rice
Published: April 30, 2014, 5:00pm

o Previously: The Vancouver salary review commission voted April 24 to decrease the salary for mayor pro tem.

o What’s new: The commission reversed itself Wednesday and voted to keep the $2,000 monthly salary the same for the mayor pro tem.

o What’s next: The new salary schedule, which includes raises for the mayor and councilors, takes effect in January.

Vancouver’s salary review commission reversed itself Wednesday and decided not to lower the monthly salary for the mayor pro tem.

o Previously: The Vancouver salary review commission voted April 24 to decrease the salary for mayor pro tem.

o What's new: The commission reversed itself Wednesday and voted to keep the $2,000 monthly salary the same for the mayor pro tem.

o What's next: The new salary schedule, which includes raises for the mayor and councilors, takes effect in January.

Instead, the monthly salary for mayor pro tem will remain $2,000.

Chairman Lyle Coblentz signed the ordinance so it could be filed with the city clerk.

The new salary schedule takes effect in January for the 2015-16 budget.

As voted last week, Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt will receive an increase from $2,200 to $2,300 a month. Councilors’ monthly salaries will increase from $1,781 to $1,800. Salaries have not increased since 2009.

So why the change?

Wednesday’s meeting, unlike the four previous meetings, didn’t include time for public comment on the agenda. But three Vancouver residents who are all heavily active in the community, Jerry Keen, Dan Tarbell and Don Wilson, came to the meeting, which was in a conference room at City Hall.

Coblentz said the commission would be happy to hear their thoughts.

All three questioned the decision to lower the salary from $2,000 to $1,900 for the mayor pro tem, a position currently held by Larry Smith, the senior member of the city council.

Keen said the additional pay for additional work was a good incentive for a councilor to want to serve as mayor pro tem, and Tarbell and Wilson mentioned how many community events Smith attends to represent the council.

“It’s almost like a slap in the face” to reduce his salary, Keen said.

The reduction wouldn’t have taken effect until the council voted again on mayor pro tem. Salary Commissioner Barry Hemphill stressed the reduction was nothing personal and he just felt the position earned too much extra money for the additional duties.

In a questionnaire for the commission, Smith estimated he spends nearly 40 hours a week, including weekends, representing the city at functions.

Leavitt works as a civil engineer at PBS Engineering + Environmental.

“As such, he is required to balance two agendas and commitments,” Smith wrote. “Often his engineering job conflicts with his mayor responsibilities. I am in the position to respond on short notice, especially since I am retired and focus my time on city issues and community activities. In fact, it is common practice for me to have a copy of the mayor’s talking points in case of a delay,” Smith wrote.

He has also represented the mayor in Olympia and at legislative events.

Assistant City Attorney Linda Marousek said Wednesday the decision to cut the salary could be revisited if someone who was in the majority in last week’s vote made a motion to reconsider. Stan Girt, who said last week’s vote was a compromise, made the motion to reconsider the issue. He was joined by Ben De Lozier (who was absent last week) and Coblentz in voting to keep the monthly salary at $2,000.

Hemphill and Candace Jameson voted no.

All five members ultimately approved the ordinance with the new salary schedule, however.

Formally titled the Vancouver Citizen’s Commission on Mayor/Council Salaries, the commission was created by a change to the city charter that was approved by voters in 1994. Members are appointed by the mayor with approval from the council. The commission meets every two years, coinciding with the biennial budget. The group’s only responsibility is to set the salaries for the mayor and the council, who cannot review or change the decision.

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