On Oct. 3, Carmel Clerk-Treasurer Christine Pauley spoke out publicly against a proposed salary ordinance for 2017, which includes a 40 percent pay increase for Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard and a 2 percent pay increase for herself.
Several members of the general public spoke at the Oct. 3 Carmel City Council meeting to say they felt Brainard’s proposed $50,000 raise is excessive. If approved, Brainard’s pay would increase $127,946 each year to $179,344 each year. This would make him the highest paid mayor in the state of Indiana, making more than Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett at $95,000 and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence at $113,026.
The council introduced the salary ordinance at the meeting and sent it to the finance committee, which is scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 10. That meeting will be open to the public.
Pauley sent a letter to city council expressing disappointment that she is proposed to receive only a 2 percent raise, putting her pay at $106,749. In the budget proposal, her elected colleagues would receive raises of 20 percent or more.
Pauley has instead suggested she should receive a 23 percent increase to a salary of $129,205, as evidenced by an ordinance she asked to be added to the council’s agenda Oct. 3.
Pauley noted she’s the only full-time, female elected official in the city and questioned whether it is “gender discrimination” that her proposed raise is less.
At the same time as suggesting she should be paid more, Pauley suggests in her letter that there should be no wage adjustments for any employees or elected officials.
“This would be the most fiscally responsible decision,” Pauley writes. “This money allotted for the wage adjustments should instead be used for debt service repayment or be used to lower the tax rate. Either would be a wiser use of the money.”
She also questioned the fiscal responsibility of more than $600,000 in pay raises, when all of the proposed city salary increases are added up.
“The city should send the right signal to our creditors that any long-term increases to our financial obligation are done with the utmost due diligence,” she said at the council meeting. “Second, as the clerk-treasurer and the executive director of the Carmel Bond Bank and the only full-time, female elected City of Carmel official, I expect to be treated fairly and with respect … This is about equal pay for equal work.”
In her letter, Pauley states she’s retained outside counsel, and as a result, there is an executive session meeting at 8 p.m. Oct. 6 — not open to the public or media — for the city council to discuss, “litigation or litigation that is pending,” according to the official notice.
She said her salary is being based on performance while others, such as the mayor and the councilors, had their salaries based solely on what other cities pay. She also defended her performance.
“The clerk-treasurer is the only position excluded in the recommended wage adjustment … The common council is using inaccurate information that is irrelevant, as well as defamatory statements,” Pauley writes.
For the judge, mayor and city councilors, proposed salary increases are based on a midpoint in a study conducted by the Archer Company, which previously did a salary study for Carmel approximately a decade ago. But for the clerk-treasurer, her 2017 salary would be below the minimum salary stated in the report of $107,671. The midpoint listed was $129,206 and the maximum was $150,740.
Current in Carmel obtained a copy of the salary study, and it shows that the Archer Company looked at the City of Fishers and out-of-state communities, including Alpharetta, Ga., Cary, N.C., Dublin, Ohio, Eden Prairie, Minn., Germantown, Tenn., Maple Grove, Minn., Naperville, Ill., and Woodbury, Minn. The mayor’s salary is also based on looking at city managers and not just elected mayors. Some have noted that the cost of living is higher in some of those cities compared to Carmel.
Pauley said the difference in her raise compared to her peers is due to conflicts with the council, of which some members have been critical of her performance. Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider accused her publicly of regularly spending time out of the office.
“Not only do I not have performance issues — indeed, I go above and beyond each day in my job as the clerk-treasurer — but to base its decision on subjective data while basing the decisions relating to all other individuals on the objective data is against policy,” Pauley writes. “It also shows the gender discriminatory treatment.”
The Carmel City Council voted in January to eliminate Pauley’s position as clerk-treasurer and become a “second class city” with a mayor-appointed city controller and an elected city clerk. That won’t go into effect until after the next election and after Pauley, first elected in 2015, finishes out her four-year term.
Brainard said he can’t discuss legal matters relating to Pauley, but he did generally address the salary ordinance at the Oct. 3 meeting.
“We looked at comparable states and comparable cities,” he said. “We look at cities in which we compete with on a day-by-day basis for jobs and economic growth. Cities that are similar to Carmel in economic demographics.”
Brainard calls it a “reset” for salaries, and that after 10 years, it was time to review where Carmel was compared to its competition and not necessarily other Indiana cities. He said it’s to make sure Carmel is in a position to be competitive when hiring new employees.
“Many of our positions are paid less than comparable cities,” he said. “Between 20 and 40 percent in many cases. They gave us a range: low, high and midpoint. And we did as we’ve done before and made a recommendation based on the midpoint.”
Brainard said not paying employees enough can have negative effects on the city.
“Many of our employees make decisions that make huge fiscal impacts on our taxpayers today and taxpayers yet to come,” he said. “Mistakes made by people who are inexperienced or don’t have the requisite background or education or experience in making those decisions, cost us far more.”
Brainard previously defended his proposed salary increase in a statement written by Melanie Lentz, a spokeswoman for the city.
“There are differences in the roles of mayors from state to state,” she writes. “In many states, there are cities with both mayors and city managers. But in Indiana, it is the mayor of a city that performs both … Over the years, the Mayor has had opportunities to leave public service for the private sector, where salaries and compensation for being a corporate executive for a company the size of Carmel’s workforce would be much higher. Earlier this year, the Mayor considered a potential seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, where the salary is roughly what is being proposed now for 2017.”
City of Carmel Director of Human Resources Barb Lamb said it’s difficult to mathematically come up with salaries for elected officials since it varies so much.
“They’re not strictly market driven,” she said. “We use some market data, and we use some common sense.”
Lamb said it’s important to pay well to attract the best job candidates for non-elected positions.
“Yes, salaries here are generous,” she said. “They always have been, and it allows us to attract the quality of people we have, and make no mistake about it, we have the first choice when it comes to looking for jobs because of our salary structure, and looking around our community, you can see what that has done; it’s put us above the other communities in Hamilton County. We believe that. It’s allowed us to hire the best and to provide the best services, and I think you get what you pay for.”
UPDATE: In the original posting of this story, a paragraph titled “More questions raised” addressed the 2016 salaries for the clerk treasurer and the city councilors. According to Barbara A. Lamb, Director of Human Resources for the City of Carmel, the original document introducing the 2016 Elected Official Salary Ordinances did not include a 3 percent COLA allotment for city councilors or the clerk-treasurer. In the amended and approved 2016 Elected Official Salary Ordinances this 3 percent COLA was added to the city councilor and clerk treasurer pay. This explains the noted difference in what was originally on file for salaries and what was received.