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Council members want vote on raise

July 27, 2000

Council members want vote on raise



By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer


A majority of Hagerstown City Council members said Thursday they want to vote in open session on a $2,205 pay raise for City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman.

The raise went into effect Thursday because the mayor implemented the pay hike after a majority of council members supported the raise during a closed-door meeting earlier this month.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II defended his actions Thursday and said he wants future city administrator salary adjustments to also be made in private meetings. Bruchey said requiring an open council vote on the matter is unnecessary and would be "bureaucracy at its worst."

A majority of council members support the pay increase, which pushes Zimmerman's annual salary from about $88,940 to $91,145. But a majority also say the procedure for implementing the raise should include a council vote in an open meeting, as it traditionally has.

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During a closed meeting earlier this month, four of the five council members supported the raise, which is retroactive to June 1999. Following that meeting Bruchey signed the paperwork to give Zimmerman the raise and retroactive pay.

But Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein, who opposes the raise, said it shouldn't be paid until the council votes on the matter in an open meeting. Councilmen William M. Breichner and J. Wallace McClure said Thursday that they agree with Saum-Wicklein, and will ask for a public vote on Zimmerman's raise.

"Susan's absolutely right. It does need to be a formal vote," said McClure, who supports the raise.

"By not doing it people get suspicious," he said, adding the vote would be a "mere formality at this point."

"I feel the increase, any increase of salary should be approved in open session," said Breichner. "I feel an error has been made."

"The public has a right to know when the city administrator gets a pay raise," Saum-Wicklein said. "It's their tax dollars."

"His salary level isn't secret, so why eliminate the public process?" she asked.

The mayor said he acted after receiving the support of a majority of council members and discussing the matter with a city attorney.

"Just because it was done in public session before does not mean it needs to be in public now," Bruchey said.

When asked why he chose to handle the entire process in closed meetings, Bruchey said, "Because we can. We're well within the law."

Bruchey plans to meet with council members Tuesday to discuss whether they want to publicly vote on Zimmerman's raise.

Councilmen Lewis C. Metzner said he would not push for a public vote on the matter because it is "not a big issue."

"The whole thing is being blown out of proportion," he said.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer was waiting to hear from a city attorney before commenting on the matter.

But Boyer said there is "no requirement for every action the City (Council) takes to be fed out to the public."

Zimmerman could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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