Carmel clerk-treasurer opposes salary ordinance, claims discrimination

Carmel Clerk-Treasurer Christine Pauley is publicly opposing a proposed ordinance that would boost pay for the city’s elected officials, while claiming she has been discriminated and harassed by the Carmel City Council.

The ordinance, which is expected to be discussed Monday night at the City Council meeting, would give Mayor Jim Brainard a 40 percent increase in pay next year, along with a 20 percent raise for city judge Brian Poindexter and 28 percent increase for City Council members.

Pauley, however, would only see a 2 percent increase. Her 2016 salary of $104,656 would be raised to $106,749. She’s arguing the council made the decision to limit her raise based on personal issues rather than follow the recommendations from a recently completed salary study.

In a letter sent to City Council members on Friday, Pauley said the council would violate state code and the Indiana Constitution by basing her salary adjustment on anything other than objective standards.

She also claims the council has discriminated against her based on her gender, saying members have made inappropriate statements to her about her attire and her dating life.

She said the salary ordinance would “further discriminate against me, harass me and retaliate against me on the basis of my sex.”

“The [City] Council does not have the power to reprimand me or punish me or provide any advance action against me as the Clerk Treasurer for any alleged personal job-performance issues,” Pauley wrote.

Most of the significant salary increases proposed for next year, including the pay hikes for the other elected officials, are the result of a salary survey. It compared salaries of Carmel employees to government workers in Fishers and out-of-state communities including Alpharetta, Georgia; Cary, North Carolina; Dublin, Ohio; Eden Prairie, Minnesota; Germantown, Tennessee; Maple Grove, Minnesota; Naperville, Illinois; and Woodbury, Minnesota.

Three other out-of-state cities were also contacted several times, but never responded to requests for information.

According to the study, the minimum salary recommended for the clerk-treasurer position was $107,671, the midpoint was $129,206 and the maximum was $150,740.

All other elected officials would see their pay moved to the midpoint level with the proposed increases. The 2017 salaries would be $179,344 for Brainard, $145,919 for Poindexter and $22,167 for council members.

“The report did not specifically take into account an individual’s personal job performance, but relied only on data compiled from the city of Carmel as well as 13 other cities about 32 different positions,” Pauley wrote. “The [City] Council, however, entirely based its decision to exclude the Clerk Treasurer’s salary from the recommended wage adjustment based solely on its inaccurate assessment of my personal performance issues.”

Issues with Pauley’s job performance surfaced during informal budget hearings earlier this month. Council member Kevin Rider accused her of regularly spending time out of the office and questioned whether the city should hire an additional employee for her department, as she has requested.

Pauley argued that she is a separately elected city official and she’s regularly working outside normal business hours at evening meetings. She also said she’s “always available” by phone or email to her staff and the council.

In the letter, she accuses the council of violating the separation of powers outlined in the Indiana Constitution. And she’s not just requesting the council delay voting on the elected official salary ordinance. She also suggesed the council vote down wage adjustments for city employees and officials.

The salary proposals being discussed Monday night also call for employee raises ranging from 2.06 percent to 5.71 percent and director raises of 5.8 percent to nearly 18 percent.

“This would be the most fiscally responsible decision,” Pauley said. “This money allotted for the wage adjustments should instead be used for debt service repayment or be used to lower the tax rate. Either would be a wiser use of the money.”

Pauley told IBJ that her office has not seen a fiscal impact study calculating what the impact of approving all of the salary increases would be, so the true cost of it is still unknown, at least to her.

Brainard said it would cost the city an additional $664,041 annually for all of the wage increases that are suggested on top of a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment. He declined to comment on Pauley's letter.

Pauley requested the City Council schedule an executive session to discuss her personnel issues and respond in writing to explain the grounds for denying her a larger salary adjustment.

She said she has retained attorneys Kevin Betz and Jamie Maddox with Betz + Blevins to represent her.

The council said it is scheduled to meet in executive session Thursday morning to discuss “an initiation of litigation or litigation that is either pending or has been threatened specifically in writing.”

Council President Ron Carter declined to comment on the issue.

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