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February 18, 2009
The Compensation Commission met on February 18, 2009, at 9:00 a.m. in the Diamondback Terrapin Conference Room of City Hall.
Members present: Virginia Onley, Chair; Jim Coyle; Steve Edwards; Jim Marrinan; Tom Moore
Staff in attendance: CClaire Funkhouser, City Clerk; Brenda Bean, Deputy City Clerk; and Assistant City Attorney Sondra Block.
Visitors in attendance: Roald Schrack.
Chairperson Onley opened the meeting and introduced Roald Schrack, who was present to offer his comments. Mr. Schrack said that he was pleased that during Jim Coyle’s tenure on the Mayor and Council that this Commission was established. He said he felt the intention of the commission had been a good one.
Mr. Schrack then commented on the history of the “concept” of Mayor and Council compensation, stating that it was more a concept that grew out of the idea of civic volunteerism and compensating the Mayor and Council for costs they might incur related to their duties.
Mr. Schrack said that to him, it seems that over time it seemed that compensation was being used as an instrument to affect the viability of Rockville’s form of government, i.e., to remove the city manager and have a strong mayor. He stated that he did not agree with this and that he thought that the city manager form of government for Rockville remains a good model. Mr. Schrack said that the Mayor and Council should remain the policy makers, with staff, with the advisement of the boards and commissions, implementing those policies.
Mr. Schrack added that he thought trying to compensate the Mayor and Council for time and effort is a mistake. He said that some would argue that you would have more people running for office if the compensation were higher, but it could be argued that, because of higher compensation, some may run on the basis of receiving income rather than a desire to serve the community. Mr. Schrack concluded by saying that he believes the current compensation is more than adequate; that future increases should be based on a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) equivalent to whatever is given to staff. Furthermore, the disbanding of the Compensation Commission should be considered if a mechanism such as the COLA was instituted.
The members of the Commission thanked Mr. Schrack for his comments and proceeded with the rest of the group’s business.
Approval of Minutes
There being no changes to the minutes of the January 29, 2009 meeting, Commissioner Jim Coyle moved that they be approved. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Tom Moore and the minutes were approved.
Commenting on the materials that were gathered for this meeting, Chair Onley said she was not certain of the relevancy of the document that contained the professions of previous candidates. Mr. Edwards responded that he had found it interesting and helpful stating that it is an indicator of whether or not we are attracting a broad range of candidates. He said that the information demonstrated to him that the City did in fact have a pretty good range of interest and backgrounds, at least in the last election. Mr. Coyle said that during his time on the Mayor and Council, he had been amazed at how highly qualified the candidates had been. He commented that one thing which seems to have changed was that it seems that there are not as many federal or government workers involved now. City Clerk Claire Funkhouser said that this trend seemed to be consistent with the employment trends throughout the D.C. region, which have seen considerable growth in the private sector.
There was a broad discussion on the rest of the data that staff had assembled for this meeting. Discussion points included:
There was also discussion of the future of the Commission and whether or not the Commission should be disbanded. It was decided that it would be best not to act on the future of the Commission now, but concentrate on the issue of compensation only. Other ways that the issue might be addressed were also discussed, but were deferred until later.
Discussion continued on the way in which to calculate any increase. There was discussion about the pros and cons of tying the compensation to any cost of living adjustment given to staff. One of the issues seemed to be with a COLA in the intermediate year. Another issue seemed to be that if a COLA was tied to a figure set by the Mayor and Council, then they are potentially raising their own salaries. The reverse of that is they vote it down thereby affecting staff salaries.
Given some of these complications, the discussion ensued about other mechanisms such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) that would be externally based. There were questions about any mechanisms that Rockville has used to come up with its COLA as well as Frederick, which cited the CPI as its criteria for adjustments. There was additional discussion about how to structure any increase in the interim year.
There was discussion about how to disseminate the outside comments received. Because they are considered public information, posting them on the website is an option. Staff was asked to let the three people who wrote know that they will be posted as a courtesy. Any exhibits should be posted as addendum to the approved minutes, which will also go on the web.
There was also discussion on how to ask for further testimony. It was agreed that, while it is preferable to have testimony in writing, people should not be discouraged if they only want to come to meetings and share their comments in person. It was mentioned that the reason for having the meeting on March 10 in the evening was to accommodate this.
At this point, Ms. Onley polled the group on each’s position with respect to compensation. Commissioner Coyle said he is in favor with establishing some kind of a basis, such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI), for going forward that the Compensation Commission can follow next time. Commissioner Moore said that he agreed in principle with Mr. Coyle and suggested writing a meatier report laying out a solid justification. Mr. Edwards said he is in favor of establishing some kind of structure that provides a basis for moving forward. He spoke of his desire not to lock in future Commissions.
Ms. Onley said that, while planning forward is praiseworthy, the state of the economy may require maintaining the current level of compensation and to not recommend any changes (not even a CPI), though the group might consider putting something in place for the future. Ms. Funkhouser urged the group to tune into the Mayor and Council meeting on February 23rd so that they could listen to the FY 2010 budget preview. She said this would give them some idea of not only what staff was recommending, but also what the Mayor and Council were saying in response.
Upon motion of Jim Coyle, duly seconded by Steve Edwards and unanimously passed, the meeting adjourned at 10:55 a.m. The next meeting will be held on March 10, 2009, at 7:00 p.m.