Town manager to see a 28-percent salary increase in 2013

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After two town council meetings, one just before Christmas, the Fishers Town Council approved a salary ordinance, posting the minimum and maximum biweekly salaries for town employees.

With the salary ordinance approved, the town manager and director of community development could make up to $5,384.62 biweekly, or $140,000.12 annually.

Realistically, Town Manager Scott Fadness is set to make $125,000 in 2013 – a $27,350, or 28-percent, increase from 2012, according to information provided by Maura Leon-Barber, Town of Fishers director of communications. In 2011, the salary was capped at $93,000.

The vote for the salary caps came at a special meeting of the council on Dec. 21, held after the council failed to vote on the ordinance at its scheduled meeting on Dec. 17.

By law, the town had to pass the ordinance by the end of the year. First, second and third readings were to be held at the Dec. 17 meeting. To hold all three readings and vote on the ordinance, the council had to unanimously vote to suspend the rules. The rules were not suspended, so the second and third readings had to be rescheduled for the later meeting.

Town Councilor Renee Cox requested the actual salaries for the town manager, director of community development and clerk-treasurer at the Monday meeting, but the figures were not available.

At the Friday morning meeting, the council, with president Scott Faultless and councilor Stuart Easley absent, suspended the rules and held second and third readings.

As part of the second reading, public comment was invited.

Doug Allman, the chair of the City Yes political action committee, asked the council what the financial impact of raises would be on the town.

Allman was not given a specific figure. Fadness referred him to the town’s Web site for specific numbers, but town councilor Pete Peterson said questions like Allman’s should have been asked when the budget was being discussed, which happened earlier in the fall.

Town councilor Michael Colby said raises impacted the previous posted maximum salaries and positions were being added as a result of the ordinance.

 

Fishers shrank when the recession hit in 2008 and 2009, but it saved money and is at a point it now can give raises, town councilor David George said.

The salary ordinance passed four to one, with Cox being the only dissenting vote. After the vote, Cox explained her stance.

“I guess I find it appalling, and I have felt threatened during this whole process,” Cox said. “When we came off the election in November and were being told, ‘I might leave because my job may not be here in three years because we’re going to have an elected mayor and department heads may leave as well.’ So, the feeling of you’ve got to incentivize me to stay and incentivize my department heads to stay I think is less becoming of leaders in this community.”

She then began listing figures she researched on her own – stating Fadness’ salaries in the past three years, including 2013. She said she received some of the information from Indianapolis.

Peterson interrupted her to get legal counsel’s view on discussing job performance in a public forum.

Counsel jumped back and forth with the councilors, saying that discussing job performance in the forum could open the town to litigation.

Colby, who was presiding over the council, said some of Cox’s initial statements about an individual making a threat were opinion.

He said he would “referee” the discussion if legal problems were arising.

“We sat upstairs in executive session as a group and discussed the performances of the employee and employees and we agreed upon a salary,” Colby said. “ … You (Cox) included. Now, when we’ve come out of a meeting, you’ve taken a different position. If you changed your mind, you changed your mind.”

She listed Fadness’ salaries for 2011, 2012 and 2013, with the only inconsistency from earlier stated figures being she stated Fadness’ pay was $112,000 in 2012.

Peterson listed salary ranges for other council-manager bodies around the United States, pointing out that the town manager’s pay fell into the average of multiple pay ranges.

She said she was wondering if employees pushing snow were receiving the same level of pay raise.

“Transparency and trust – people and residents deserve that and nothing less,” Cox said.

Cox said the council talked about making part-time employees full-time and cost of living increases but did not discuss the new pay grades that Fadness, director of community development Tom Dickey and clerk-treasurer Gaye Cordell all now belong in.

She said the documents were not provided until 4 p.m. on Dec. 17 – three hours before the meeting at which the salary ordinance was originally to be voted on.

Offers that were made elsewhere to town employees and the elimination of positions were used as leverage, she said.

She later specified the town manager was the employee in question.

“I don’t think it’s government’s job to secure and ensure someone’s position when they threaten you like that,” Cox said. “That’s not becoming of a manager of this community as far as I’m concerned, and the residents deserve better than that.”

When asked about the raise being an incentive to remain with the town even though the town manager position may be eliminated when the town transitions to a city as well as a general comment on salary increases, Fadness said in an email that the questions “are more directed to the council.”

Info Box:

2013 Salary levels: a quick comparison

Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear – $110,302

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard – Potential salary max (based on biweekly salary) – $119,626

Fishers Town Manager Scott Fadness – $125,000

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