Rochester City Councilors Vote to Double Salaries for Themselves and Mayor

When’s the last time you or anyone you know received double the pay out of the blue, for doing the same work? That’s what I thought. But that’s how much of a raise the Rochester City Council recently voted to award themselves and Mayor Kim Norton.

The maneuver means Mayor Norton will see her salary increase 109 percent from $37,657 to $78,840 essentially overnight starting in January. Six city council members will pocket a pay hike of 142 percent from $21,712 to $52,560. Christmas also came early for Rochester City Council president Randy Staver, whose annual compensation from the taxpayers also rises 140 percent overnight from $27,743 to $66,565.

The more than $250,000 total bump in pay bestowed by local elected officials on themselves stunned one taxpayer in the audience, who warned there could  be repercussions in the Rochester Post-Bulletin account of the proceedings.

Rochester resident Othelmo da Silva predicts the planned salary increases will have a negative impact on members.

He addressed the council during a budget and property tax hearing shortly before a vote to more than double elected officials’ pay.

“You must know that the optics, not to mention the ethics, of doing so would be disastrous for your relationship with the Rochester community,” he said.

It’s not even clear whether serving on the city council is officially considered a part-time or full-time job. There’s no official job description detailing what’s expected of council members or how much time they’re expected to put in, according to the Post-Bulletin.

No definition exists for how many hours a council member or the mayor must work and whether it is a formal part-time or full-time position.

[Rochester City Attorney Jason Loos] said he’s not aware of anything that defines specific duties of the job outside the recently adopted council rules, which largely outline actions during meetings and interactions between staff and members of the public.

Clearly the traditional view of the job of city councilor has been as a part-time position that involves public service, giving back to the community.  Yet only one of seven city councilors opposed giving themselves the wildly disproportionate wage hike.

Council Member Patrick Keane, however, said he struggled with the issue and ultimately decided to oppose the increase, noting he ran for office thinking of the position as part-time, even though recent research revealed it is not officially defined as a part-time or full-time position.

It seems the city council members who justified the decision to more than double their compensation also have an inflated view of their duties.

“We have seven people who are basically the CEOs or the board of directors for the city,” Council Member Shaun Palmer said.

Leading into the 6-1 vote, with Keane opposed, to initiate the pay increase, several council members said they put in the hours to reflect the proposed salaries.

”I go to meetings all day long, late in the morning, mid-morning and sometimes early morning until late at night,” Council Member Mark Bilderback said.

Rochester residents will soon have the opportunity to decide who attends all of those meetings when they go to the polls to decide on four city council seats up before voters in 2020.