Posted August 8
Mayor Jim Suttle apologized on Wednesday for the way he announced salary raises for some of his staff. Council members have been critical of the mayor, questioning why it appeared he was hiding it from them.
"I sincerely apologize for the manner in which salary increases I gave members of my staff were announced...I should have made a bigger deal out of [their accomplishments] at the time raises were given and I am sorry."
Many members of the council have been critical of the mayor's intentions since it appeared he was asking for the council's approval of the raises in the 2013 budget, even though the staff had been paid the increases since January.
Chief-of-staff Steve Oltmans and Finance Director Pam Spaccarotella received $25,0000 pay raises.
Omaha City Councilman Franklin Thompson will ask his colleagues on Tuesday to vote on a two-part resolution, which publicly admonishes the mayor for not including the council in the decision-making process and asking for more transparency from the mayor’s office from here on out.
“Jim Suttle’s protests today don’t change any of the facts," said Councilwoman Jean Stothert, who is running for mayor. "After pledging to freeze salaries for top staff, he secretly awarded dramatic pay hikes beyond what was approved by the council."
Suttle, who is running for re-election, said there was no intent to deceive taxpayers. "The City Council has seized a political opportunity to distract the public."
The salary increases did not exceed the mayor's budget. Suttle said he was rewarding some of his staff for going above and beyond the call of duty and for saving the city millions.
Thompson is mulling a run for mayor. He said he will officially announce his intentions in the next week.
The issue of staff raises had dogged the Mayor since he was elected. Compared to the previous administration, he gave substantial increases to his new staff. It was one of the reasons an effort took place to recall him.
On Wednesday, council members questioned raises he proposed in the 2013 budget.
Mayor Suttle is asking for council approval but council staff uncovered the raises have been paid since January.
Here are two examples: Chief-of-staff Steve Oltmans went from $125,000 to $150,000.
Finance director Pam Spaccarotella went from $140,000 to $165,000.
Council staff examined pay stubs and the two are already being paid the higher amount.
It is worth noting that Mayor Suttle has stayed within his budget. He has the authority to dole out the money as he wishes.
Some council members thought the mayor's staff was still in the middle of a pay freeze and that it's deceiving to give raises this way.
Council member Pete Festersen said he is "concerned about the lack of transparency and the lack of fiscal restraint."
Council member Jean Stothert is disappointed the mayor wasn't more forthcoming -- that the council had to "go hunting" to find the real salary numbers.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Suttle said he is looking at the big picture -- that these two (Oltmans with 2011 flooding and Spaccarotella with bond rating) saved the city millions and are being rewarded for that.
Previously, Mayor Suttle has said that a city has to pay more if it wants to compete with the private sector for top-notch talent.
For example, Spaccarotella was initially hired at $180,000 when Suttle was elected. Mayor Fahey's finance director was making around $100,000. Spaccarotella's salary was later dropped to $140,000 because of the controversy.
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