Contemptuous and irresponsiblePublished 8:44pm Saturday, January 19, 2013
There was one big difference between Wednesday’s meeting of the Suffolk City Council and the one in April when members decided to withdraw a proposal to give City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn a 21-percent raise. This time, nobody knew about the plan to give the city manager a significant bump in salary except a few council members.
Without advance public notice about the proposal, City Council chambers on Wednesday were largely devoid of the citizens who had showed up back in April to demonstrate their opposition to giving Cuffee-Glenn such a large raise while other city employees — including teachers and firefighters and police officers — had to accept slight adjustments that equated to cost-of-living increases, at best.
Without a roomful of angry voters and others holding picket signs on the sidewalk outside, council members on Wednesday voted to give the city manager a 14-percent increase in salary and then made the raise retroactive to Dec. 1. There was a brief public discussion of the issue following a closed session. In the public session, council members said Cuffee-Glenn deserved the raise for her hard work and for her contribution to improving the quality of life in Suffolk.
Maybe she does deserve a raise. She surely puts in significant hours, and the city has experienced a number of improvements during her tenure as city manager.
But members of the City Council do not work for Cuffee-Glenn. They work for the citizens of Suffolk, who spoke in near unanimity last year to say the raise should not be granted. Council is responsible to those citizens for its actions, not to Cuffee-Glenn. That responsibility should give members a strong sense of accountability for the things they do.
By choosing to make this decision without prior public notification, by doing so with only minimal public discussion and by taking this action outside of the normal budget process, when the public would have had a chance to respond to it, council members have demonstrated they feel no such accountability to the people who pay the taxes that must fund the city manager’s salary.
Members of the Suffolk City Council have made a big deal in recent years of having an open government. Wednesday’s action, which smacks of secrecy and a disdain for the wishes of taxpayers, proves how shallow council’s commitment to open government really is, and it testifies to a certain level of disrespect for the people of Suffolk.
Rather than cheerleading for the city manager and attempting to justify their actions, as some members did the day after their decision last week, Suffolk’s elected officials should have hung their heads in shame for the contemptuous way they treated the people who put them in the seats on the council chamber’s dais.