published: Friday, April 20, 2012
Groveland on pay cuts: No comment
ROXANNE BROWN | Staff Writer
Last month, some Groveland City Council members said it was too early to talk about cutting their salaries to help save money during a tight budget year. On Monday, the board apparently felt it was too early to let the public talk about it either.
More than 60 citizens waited about two hours before the council unanimously voted to pay a consultant $5,000 to compare Groveland's employees with others in the area to see if raises, bonuses and benefits can be cut. But when it came time for a vote for public comment, the silence was deafening.
"No motion to discuss this and allow our citizens to have their say? Talk?" Mayor Mike Radzik asked before passing the gavel to Vice Mayor Tim Loucks so he could make the motion himself. No one on the council would second the motion, so it died.
"This is truthfully an abomination," said resident Glen Wilson, who bought up the idea of a council pay cut last month. "We went through two hours for our freedom of speech, everybody has a right to speak. Tonight, is a conspiracy of silence."
After the meeting, Radzik said he was disappointed that residents didn't get a chance to speak and called the board's inaction "a travesty."
Resident Dina Sweatt labeled it "bad manners."
"Maybe they (council) could have lowered it (their salaries) down a little bit just to show they were on board, since they have been talking about cutting employee benefits," she said. "They could lead by example and they should have at least discussed it.
"Personally, I think they committed political suicide by keeping their mouths shut."
According to Wilson, the city could save $363,000 over 10 years if the mayor and council members cut their monthly pay from $1,050 to $400 and from $850 to $300, respectively. He called the board's pay "bloated, grotesque and obscene," pointing out that Groveland is the highest paid council in Lake County.
"Upon learning that the council had decided to go on the attack of our city employees, to try to take away their benefits by having this sham study of their jobs, I decided to do a study of their jobs," Wilson said. "They (council members) want to compare (employee) jobs with other cities. I've decided to compare their job with other cities, also."
Loucks said he did not entertain the motion because he thinks a council pay cut is premature and shouldn't be discussed until consultant's study results come back.
He also said residents and employees should know the study has nothing to do with trying to cut employee pay, but to get a better handle on pay scales, incentives, benefits and other things people may not be fully aware of.
"I feel things like this are better handled by professionals," Loucks said.
Councilman John Griffin said council pay is nothing compared to what a handful of employees are making, especially when educational bonuses, take-home cars, end-of-year incentive bonuses and other things are added in.
"There are men digging ditches out there that can barely make a living, but then there are city employees making three-figure incomes, plus bonuses and other things. That's the real Robin Hood story, if you really look at it, from cutting from the top," Griffin said.
He added he did not entertain the motion for a council pay cut because he does not agree it is warranted.
Resident James Gearhart, a former councilman and candidate for mayor, said he feels Wilson's council pay cut request was a ploy to make the board look bad during election season.
Radzik has already said he would go without a salary, if necessary. Council James Smith and Jared Mincey could not be reached for comment Tuesday regarding council pay cuts.