Carmel City Council opposes steep salary increases

The Carmel City Council finance committee has drastically slashed proposed pay hikes for elected officials.

The three-person finance committee voted Monday night to send the salary ordinance back to the full council with the recommendation that salary increases for all elected city officials be reduced to 2 percent.

The initial salary ordinance proposal included a 40 percent raise for Mayor Jim Brainard, a 20 percent increase for Judge Brian Poindexter and a 28 percent pay boost for city council members.

The original proposal called for Brainard’s salary to increase from $127,946 to $179,344; Poindexter’s from $120,978 to $145,919; and council members from $17,246 to $22,167.

If 2 percent raises are approved, Brainard would receive $130,504, Poindexter would earn $123,397 and council members would receive $17,590. The increases would start in 2017.

The higher salaries suggestions were a result of a citywide review recently conducted that compared compensation of Carmel employees to government workers in other Indiana cities and out-of-state communities.

Clerk-Treasurer Christine Pauley’s salary was the only elected official position already slated for a 2 percent raise from $104,656 to $106,749.

Pauley sent a letter to the council members at the end of last month opposing the proposed increases for other elected officials and accusing the council of discriminating against her.

Six of the seven council members attended Monday’s meeting, and all expressed opposition to the substantial salary increases.

“Fifty thousand dollars in one year—I think everyone almost choked on it,” council member Kevin Rider said referencing Brainard’s proposed salary.

Council president Ron Carter said the salary study worked for non-elected employees because they are vetted and selected for having the appropriate skills for the position, so the compensation should match that.

“Elected officials are not hired. They are elected,” Carter said. “There’s no chance to vet those elected officials. There’s no chance to see if they have the appropriate background.”

Once the salary for elected officials is increased, it cannot be reduced, which means if a less qualified individual ran for office and won, the salary would stay the same, Carter said.

Several of the council members discussed how they believe Brainard deserves a higher salary, but they said a $50,000 boost in one year seems too steep, especially if he doesn't run for another term or leaves before this one is finished.

“We would not get someone with the qualifications that the mayor has,” Carter said. “It would be very hard to replace him.”

Brainard had considered running for the 5th Congressional District earlier this year. The seat temporarily became open when U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks attempted to fill the vacancy created when Gov. Mike Pence became the vice presidential candidate.

The Indiana GOP instead selected Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb to replace Pence, and Brooks is running for re-election in the 5th District.

The issue with Pauley’s salary was also briefly addressed during the meeting, with Carter saying the council had not done any of things it was accused of in Pauley’s letter.

Pauley wrote that the council opted not to increase her salary based on personal issues with her rather than following the recommendations from the salary study, which would have put her pay at $129,206.

“We did not discriminate,” Carter said. “We have not harassed.” Pauley said after the meeting that she supported the council’s suggestion of a 2 percent raise for all elected officials, because it would be a fair option.

The full council still must to vote to amend the ordinance and approve the amended version before the decision is finalized.

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