Council considers pay issue

Published 10:19 pm Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A portion of city code involving the pay of the city’s constitutional officers is up for repeal in March.

The code section establishes a policy regarding how the sheriff, commonwealth’s attorney, clerk of the circuit court, commissioner of revenue and treasurer are paid. The five are elected officials as established in the state constitution, and therefore they differ somewhat in where their pay comes from.

The salaries of the five officers are fixed by the state, but localities pay the cost and most also supplement the state’s suggested salary to a degree. Prior to 2007, there was some confusion over whether the officers would take the raise offered by the state or the raise offered by the city when cost-of-living raises were offered.

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“Neither has been giving out raises in the last couple years, so it hasn’t been an issue,” Councilman Robert Barclay said. “But at some point, it will be one again.”

An ordinance was put in place in 2007 to include constitutional officers in the pay plan of the city for determination of raises — which at least two constitutional officers said was fine with them.

“As far as I was concerned, I accepted what the city offered,” said Raleigh Isaacs Sr., the city’s sheriff. “I accepted to take whatever my employees got.”

Randy Carter, clerk of the circuit court, said the situation has resulted in local constitutional officers’ salaries being off-kilter from the state salaries.

“It’s turned out to make us paid above and beyond what the state would pay us,” Carter said. “They want to get us so everybody’s treated alike, and I personally don’t have a problem with that.”

Every locality handles the situation a bit differently, Barclay said. Some localities bargain with their constitutional officers during the budget process every year, which has the potential to become contentious. Some localities make contracts with them. But others, like Suffolk, make an ordinance to deal with the issue.

“My preference is that whatever system we adopt, it be one that is impartial and removes the politics from it,” Barclay said.

The City Council tabled a motion to repeal the ordinance at last week’s meeting, to give City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn time to talk with the constitutional officers. Council will again consider the issue March 3.