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State official says commissioners' pay cannot be lowered

The state's assistant attorney general said that salaries cannot be lowered while commissioners are serving their terms.

The state's assistant attorney general said that salaries cannot be lowered while commissioners are serving their terms.

February 07, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Del. Robert McKee asked the Maryland Attorney General's office last month about whether Washington County Commissioner John C. Munson's $30,000 salary could be lowered, but the response was that such a move would be unconstitutional.

Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Israel wrote in a Jan. 27 response to McKee that the pay of the County Commissioners cannot be lowered during their four-year terms, according to state law.

Pay raises for the commissioners are approved by the Maryland General Assembly.

"The salary of a public officer with a term of four years or less may not be increased or diminished during the term ... it necessarily follows that legislation to reduce the salary of a county commissioner would be unconstitutional," Israel wrote.

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Munson said Thursday he had recently asked McKee for his salary to be lowered.

The five commissioners got a $10,000 raise that went into effect in December. The position had previously paid $20,000 a year.

When he was running for county commissioner, Munson campaigned against the increase and said the county would save $50,000 if the commissioners refused the raise. After he was elected he said he reconsidered his stance on the raise, saying there was more work involved to being a commissioner than he had thought.

However, Munson said he decided to pursue rejecting the raise again, until he received a copy of Israel's response.

"I want the public to know that I did all I could," Munson said. "I want them to know where I stand."

The other four commissioners did not support Munson's push to do away with the pay increase.

Munson on Thursday also rejected requests from citizens that he give his raise to charity.

"I ain't giving it to charity because I have to pay taxes on it first," Munson said.

He said that even if he gave the raise to charity, the county would not be saving any money.

"My intention was to save the county $50,000," he said.

He said he wouldn't talk about whether he'd make the raise an issue when his term expires in four years.

"I might be dead before then," said Munson, 61. "I might not want to run then."

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