City council pay not so cut and dryPublished 7:48pm Saturday, December 14, 2013
A few months to ponder the idea of withholding City Council stipends for unexcused absences may be a good thing.
After proposing the idea at a recent meeting, legal council informed the board that no change could be made to salaries until the next budget is made.
At first glance, it made perfect sense that a council member not be paid for meetings that were skipped. But, let’s look a little closer.
Council members are paid about $500 a month. That payment is for more than just the two meetings per month that is held. Each serves on committees, makes public appearances and corresponds with constituents regularly.
At budget time, council members can count on longer hours weighing tougher questions. They can also count on their stipend remaining unaffected by those longer hours.
One interesting part of this proposal is the notion that fellow council members would decide which are excusable absences and which are not. Imagine for a moment that your co-workers yielded that power. Do you think it would be wisely used?
More likely, cronies would help cronies and anyone outside an alliance would bare the brunt of that power. This is not to say that any current council member would be unable to be objective. But these statutes last longer than one man’s term.
The absences that launched this debate centered around time one councilman spent in Raleigh taking seminars on public service, serving on boards and making connections with other politicians that would give Little Washington a voice in statewide matters. That sounds like a stipend earned.
Withholding pay from city officials would discourage them from venturing outside county lines and taking advantage of opportunities to learn, grow, become a better public servant and network with the state’s lawmakers. That sounds like $500 unearned.