Resident Dana Grubb said he was amazed that he had heard no discussion by council about reducing thethree-quarter-mill tax implemented three years ago to fill a gap “on capital funds that had been misused.”
“Seems to me the priorities are not where they need to be,” said Grubb. He said there is more concern on council about upgrading salaries for city employees than there is “with giving something back to the taxpayers in this community.”
Grubb suggested salary upgrades are being used as rewards for employees who have special status within city government and that the salary structure is broken.
He also said it is “incredulous” that the nominees to become the city’s new police and fire chiefs, both with 25 years of experience, would be paid less than nominees to head some other city departments.
“This budget process in some ways is disrespectful of the community in which we live,” said Grubb. He said the debate seems to be over which employees will get pay upgrades “when the real debate should be the taxpayers getting a break.”
Dolan later responded to Grubb’s remarks: “To say that those positions were rewards for people with special status, that’s an accusation of corruption and probably should have been gaveled down.”
Grubb later again took the podium to say he did not use the term “special status” to suggest corruption, but only favoritism.
Grubb praised two members of council he had known for most of his life.
He said he graduated from Liberty High School with Donchez and played sports with DiGiacinto on the sandlots and ballfields when they grew up in northeast Bethlehem. DiGiacinto will become the new city controller next month.
Dolan tried to change salaries
Amendments Dolan proposed to change salaries for a number of city employees died for a lack of a second on council, which surprised her because she thought her colleagues supported the proposals.
Dolan charged that they made a decision before Tuesday’s meeting to not consider the salary changes.
“This is a shocker,” she declared.
She said some city employees have been given promotions but never received the pay that went with those promotions, which is against the city’s employee handbook.
“That’s a 2013 council issue,” said Dolan. “I don’t see how that’s not your job – to make right what’s wrong.
“What’s proper is for the 2013 council to do its job on the 2014 budget.”
Dolan had recommended decreasing other salaries “to bring equity to our middle management. That’s important for morale.”
Council member Michael Recchiuti said it was not proper for council to consider department head salaries being proposed by Mayor-elect Donchez “in this budget at this time because they are not really before us.”
Recchiuti said council can consider those positions after Donchez is sworn in as mayor and submits names, along with proposed salaries.
Said Donchez: “I will submit to council the nominees, with their salaries, prior to Jan. 6, so all members of council, and the new members of council, have the opportunity to review the nominees and also the salaries I’ll propose.”
Pfenning threatens suit
Pfenning, the city controller, said the deputy controller improperly has been classified in relation to the duties of the position, so he had recommended a salary increase for that position. He said council previously voted to approve that reclassification, “but tonight it was not brought up again.”
Pfenning said the office of city controller is independent and the controller should have the flexibility to manage the staff in that office.
“City Council today interfered with the independent administration of that office,” maintained Pfenning. “If I am as angry as I am tonight, tomorrow morning I’m going to be seeking to find counsel someplace in the city who will represent my opinion that independence of the office has been interfered with.
“I’m very, very angry. Perhaps council members after the meeting should talk to their solicitor about what a mandamus lawsuit is.”
Callahan’s last council meeting