Mayor's request for commissioners to cut their own salaries met with total silence
In May 1-7 issue By Derek Aaron Times Journal Reporter
RUSSELL SPRINGS - A rather silent, but controversial, special-called Monday morning meeting of the City Commission was highlighted by the commissioners failing to second Mayor Hollis DeHart's motions to cut their salaries in half and only pay for them to receive a single coverage health plan, beginning July 1.
All four city commissioners —Ray Barrett, Wayne Gaskins, Richard Wooldridge and Timmy Hudson — sat quietly and emotionless as DeHart read aloud a statement concerning commissioner pay and health insurance for the next fiscal year.
"As we all know, as of January 1, 2009, the Russell Springs City Commission will cease to exist and will be replaced by a mayor-council system of government," DeHart said. "There will be numerous changes, duties and responsibilities for the incoming council."
DeHart said the main change will be the "drastic," reduction in the day-to-day operations of the city by the commissioners. He said the new council would have no day-to-day operations with the city and their responsibilities would be spoken of within the minutes of the council meetings.
"The day-to-day operations of the city will become the responsibility of the mayor and his or her staff," he said.
He said the new council members would have such responsibilities as adopting and passing ordinances, approving the budget, creating or abolishing city positions and establishing policy, among others.
"Since the responsibility of the council will be greatly reduced, it only stands to reason that their salary should be commensurate with their responsibility," DeHart said.
The mayor said it currently costs the city more than $60,000 a year in salary, health insurance and travel to sustain the commission.
"It is therefore necessary, in my opinion, and fiscally responsible to reduce the pay and or fringes of the scheduled, incoming council," he said.
DeHart recommended in a motion that the salaries of city commissioners be reduced $500 a month to $250 per month or from $6,000 a year to $3,000 a year. He said this would net savings of more than $20,000 for the city. The motion died for lack of a second.
DeHart said he knew the motion would be met with skepticism.
He said the citizens who run for a seat on the council must understand that the money they receive is to offset their expenses.
"A position on the council is not a trade, is not a craft, nor is it a position from which we earn a living," he said. He said that council members should be on the council to help see their city progress, not for personal enhancement.
DeHart also made a motion that the city only pay for a single coverage health plan for the commissioners. This motion also died for lack of a second.
At this time, the city pays either the full amount of premiums for a single coverage health plan or 75 percent of a family plan, according to City Clerk Wendy Burton.
Also at the meeting, Mayor DeHart discussed the issue of police commissioner Wayne Gaskins being cited in early April for public intoxication at Lure Lodge in Lake Cumberland State Resort Park.
"It is what it is," he said. "Over the past two or three weeks I have spend about 2/3 of my time dealing with this situation of an alcohol intoxication citation."
The mayor said that he, along with city attorneys Don Byrom and Matthew DeHart, agreed that the laws must be followed.
"This issue does not rise to the point of action by the commission," he said. DeHart said the city's ethics committee does not have the authority, through their job description, to act on the issue either.
"Regardless of their personal opinions or our personal feelings there are only certain issues, according to the law, that the ethics committee can address," he said.
DeHart said he and the commissioners were embarrassed for the city for the incident ever occurring.
"Under the perspective of the law (Gaskins) did plead guilty," DeHart said. "And he paid a fine of $174."
The mayor noted how there had been no cover-up and that the incident was out in the open.
"As far as I'm concerned, the issue rests with the voters and I intend to spend no more time defending or prosecuting a moot issue," he said.
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