NORTH ADAMS -- Despite assurances that the city’s Classification and Compensation Plan was handled correctly from the city’s external auditor and the state Department of Revenue’s Division of Local Services, City Councilor John Barrett III says he still believes the documents are full of errors.
"I thought this was a dead issue many months ago, but again there are so many inaccuracies here," he said during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. "One of them is that this is an issue of past versus current practices, not about the legality of the document. It is about past practice, which was legal. I don’t think what I’m saying is being understood."
Earlier in the year, Barrett requested that the city’s Finance Committee review several items in the city’s compensation plan -- salaries for the council and the city’s director of tourism and a discrepancy between salaries approved in the compensation plan for non-union workers versus the amount budgeted for those employees in the fiscal 2013 budget.
He said the budget must reflect the salaries stated in the compensation plan and that Mayor Richard J. Alcombright could not budget planned, but not-yet-granted, raises to non-union employees.
He also took issue with the tourism director being paid at a step higher than the minimum salary for the position and believes the compensation plan only allots $1,500 total for the annual salary of the councilors.
At the council meeting, Councilor Alan Marden, chairman of the Finance Committee, read the three-member board’s recommendations on those issues, which was to close each concern and file Barrett’s paper. The recommendations were based on city ordinances and the external auditor, Scanlon and Associates, and the state Division of Local Services signing off on the plan.
The committee also heard from City Administrative Officer Michael Canales at its Oct. 1 meeting, where he explained that city ordinances dictate that the treasurer bases payroll off of the compensation plan and not the budget, and the ordinances also allowed the mayor to hire Tourism Director Veronica Bosley at a step above the minimum salary for her position.
According to Section 2-30d of the City Ordinances, "The mayor with the approval of the City Council may promote an employee more than one step within his respective ‘grade number’ up to and including the maximum; and the employee shall be paid at the rate of compensation of the step or maximum to which he has been promoted."
Barrett has suggested the compensation plan, as approved, does not reflect the intentions of the councilors, whom voted to take $1 in salary for a year, as opposed to taking $3,000. Instead, he says it establishes the councilors’ salaries at $1,500 for the year, which would only allow them to be paid $750 after Jan. 1, 2013, when the councilors will resume receiving their salaries. He has also suggested that because of this, the mayor has over-budgeted the councilors’ salaries by about $7,000.
Canales has said the problem lies within the city’s ordinance, which establishes the compensation of the council by calendar year, as opposed to fiscal year, and prohibits changes going into effect before the end of the calendar year.
However, Barrett said Tuesday that he still disagrees.
"By ordinance is how you determine the salary of the council, which has always been past practice," he said. "Mr. Canales is wrong in his assessment. ... This City Council voted a salary beginning on Jan. 1 of $1,500 -- that’s a fact. Don’t take it, otherwise you’ll be paying it back."
The council voted unanimously to file the papers.