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Raise paid without formal vote

July 26, 2000

Raise paid without formal vote



By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer


Hagerstown City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman is expected to begin receiving a $2,205 salary increase today, but controversy has arisen over whether it was approved.

During a closed-door meeting earlier this month, four of the five City Council members said they supported the raise, which is retroactive to June 1999. Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II signed the paperwork to give Zimmerman the higher salary and retroactive pay.

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein, who opposes the pay increase, said the raise is not official until voted on by the council in an open meeting.

"Where the mayor ever got the idea he could authorize a (pay) increase without the public process I don't know," Saum-Wicklein said Wednesday.

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Councilman William M. Breichner, who supports the raise, said he agrees that Zimmerman's raise should be voted on by the council during a public meeting.

"The only time we do anything it has to be on the council floor," Breichner said.

Tuesday, Saum-Wicklein requested that Zimmerman's pay increase be withheld until a formal council vote is taken.

City Public Information Manager Karen Giffin said Wednesday that Zimmerman will receive the higher salary plus the money due as a result of the retroactive pay raise in this week's paycheck, which is issued today.

"He's being paid it," Giffin said.

Zimmerman's salary without the raise is about $88,940. His salary with the raise is about $91,145.

The mayor said he ordered the pay hike after seeing a majority of council members support the raise. Bruchey said he talked with John Urner, a city attorney, about the matter before giving the order to increase Zimmerman's salary.

Urner did not return telephone messages left at his office Wednesday.

Bruchey said he didn't know whether the council would ultimately vote on the pay increase. He said the council probably will discuss Saum-Wicklein's concerns during an Aug. 8 council meeting.

Bruchey said that discussion would be closed to the public because it involves personnel matters. In Maryland, a legislative body may vote to go into closed-door meetings to discuss specific personnel matters.

Saum-Wicklein said one reason she opposes the raise is because it is retroactive for more than a year, which she called "absurd."

She said last year's raise should have been determined last year but Zimmerman was not given a job evaluation, which is typically part of the process for determining pay changes, last year. She said it was the mayor's responsibility to schedule the evaluation.

Bruchey refused to comment on why Zimmerman did not receive an evaluation last year.

Breichner said he supported the retroactive raise because it would have happened normally.

"It was not the city administrator's fault. It was our fault," Breichner said.

Zimmerman could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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