Mayor’s Office Pressed On Exec Raises

Markeshia Ricks PhotoMayor Toni Harp’s proposed budget for her office is the same as what alders approved last year. Alders still had a question: How has the adminisitration managed to raise pay for executive staff with minimal to no increase in her budget and without their approval?

Those questions were put to two members of Harp’s staff charged with presenting her office’s proposed budget this past Thursday night during the first round of departmental hearings at City Hall over the Harp administration’s overall proposed $554.5 million operating budget for the coming fiscal year.

The mayor is asking that alders level fund her office at just over $1 million for the current fiscal year.

“It’s a status quo budget,” said Rick Melita, Harp’s liaison to the Board of Alders, who presented to the committee in the stead of Chief of Staff Tomas Reyes. “It is very similar to what was approved last year.”

Dixwell Alder Jeanette Morrison said invariably alders hear about executive management employees getting raises above the salary approved by alders during the budget cycle.

“It always bewilders me,” she said of the flat budget. “After budget season is over and a new fiscal year starts, we start to hear about all these raises. I’m just trying to understand where within these numbers would a $20,000 raise, or $10,000 raise come from.”

Alders heard about such raises from ASFCME Local 3144 on at a separate budget hearing earlier in the week: Nearly 30 union members showed up to remind alders that they’ve been operating without a contract for the last two years and the previous contract only provided them modest raises—raises they claimed were eaten by the increased costs of pensions and medical benefits.

Local 3144 President Cherlyn Pointdexter said that her union members pay 12 percent toward their benefits and will receive no social security when they retire. But executive/confidential employees receive raises and the city pays not only the raises but contributions to their 401(a) plans and pay for social security.

The union alleged that executive level management has seen significant raises under the Harp administration, raises that do not bear the weight of covering the increased costs of benefits. Alders were provided a list of executive/confidential management employees who received hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary increases. (See that salary list and assorted raises provided by the union for 2014, 2015 and 2016 at the bottom of this story.)

The union, which represents employees who work as supervisors, pressed alders at the earlier hearing to treat its members more fairly and consider the value they add to the city. The city has proposed a contract reserve budget of $2 million, a number at which alders worried aloud Thursday night as possibly being too small given that outstanding labor contracts include Local 3144, Local 884, Local 71, police, public works, Corporation Counsel, nurses and executive and confidential employees.

“I’m trying to figure out if my eyes are playing tricks on me,” Morrison said Thursday. “I can’t see the numbers. Help me to see where that falls.”

Melita said that any such increases in salaries are likely incorporated into the individual budgets of the departments. City Budget Director Joe Clerkin concurred with Melita that the costs of any such raises are likely spread across departments.

That happened in a roundabout way when it came to a salary increase that alders ultimately rescinded during the last budget cycle. The mayor had requested a raise in pay from the city’s personnel department for city Youth Services Director Jason Bartlett. Harp had sought to bump up Bartlett’s salary from $85,000 to $105,000 to compensate him for his increased responsibilities. The request came during a fiscal year that was already in progress.

The city’s personnel department approved the $20,000 raise on the grounds that it fell within appropriate job categories and thus could be done on Harp’s say-so. Arguing that Harp should have come to them before such a raise was approved, alders returned Bartlett to his original salary during the last round of budgeting. There is no request in Harp’s new proposed overall budget for a pay raise for Bartlett.

But Morrison said the matter still confuses her. When it comes to moving money around in the budget, particularly large sums, the mayor must seek approval from alders, she said.

Annex Alder Alphonse Paolillo Jr. said he has a similar understanding about budget transfers. He asked Melita and Clerkin for three years of submissions for salary increases at the executive/confidential management level in an attempt to determine the accuracy of the union’s data and how often the administration had bypassed alders to authorize raises.

“I’m pretty sure there is a submission process to the mayor’s office,” he said. “We want to look at how these numbers get to where they are. We have done some research on this and we know that there are those that have not come back to us.”

Paolillo also urged Melita to relay to the mayor’s office and ultimately city department heads that they should be in attendance for public hearings on the budget

“I think it’s important,” he said. “There were eight or 10 city departments where we heard from the employees but department heads were not here to process that information. It’s similar to the State of the City where we see the big horseshoe in here. We hope the same attention is paid to the public, is paid to the process, so that those things that are on the record can be addressed.”

Local 3144

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posted by: ILivehere on March 20, 2017  7:16am

Seems like everyone is under paid. It’s going to be a struggle to attract talented people with these salaries in 90k - 120k range.

posted by: FacChec on March 20, 2017  10:52am

Alder Morrison… “It always bewilders me,” she said of the flat budget. “After budget season is over and a new fiscal year starts, we start to hear about all these raises. I’m just trying to understand where within these numbers would a $20,000 raise, or $10,000 raise come from.”

Year after year you vote yes, after admitting your bewildered, It’s called a inside straight rip-off.

posted by: Bill Saunders on March 20, 2017  12:02pm

Mayor Harp should start her own Union.
The idea of ‘Paying your Dues’ has gotten seriously out of hand under this administration…

posted by: Noteworthy on March 20, 2017  12:17pm

The Bastardization of Transparency Notes:

1. The word “transparency” has never meant so little as right now. Bobbing and weaving while gerrymandering the budget and claiming powers the mayor doesn’t have.

2. No raises revealed, but there are raises planned. Some got tagged previously - most got through did they not? There are lots of ways to hide money in a budget this large and with alders who routinely stamp “approved”  with barely reading;

3. There should be a full accounting of the personnel in every department along with their names and salaries. It should be part of the budget document and published online in case there are changes mid-year.

4. @Ilivehere - It is not nor should it be a struggle to attract talented people with the salaries offered by New Haven. Nobody is underpaid. They have a very rich benefit package.

posted by: Bill Saunders on March 20, 2017  12:34pm

Noteworthy-

Reminds me of the ‘roll-out’ of latest property re-evaluation as having ‘no tax increase’.
So much ‘fun’  can be had with numbers when you obscure the Devil’s Detail.
It brings new meaning to the term ‘Pay Attention’.

It’s just a level-lined, Status Quo Budget similar to last year’s, right?  Sure it is.

posted by: jamesj@newhaven on March 20, 2017  12:56pm

So as I read this I can’t help but wonder if the Alders think they have the right/responsibility to approve individual raises?  If this is true, I’ll be the first to say that is ridiculous!  They should have no say in individual raises because they have no human resource-related basis (the individual’s performance or lack of performance) for their decision.  Of course, the Alders should review, amend and approve budgets as is their responsibility.  Within those departmental budgets are line items for personnel expenses which obviously include salaries, and when fiscal conditions permit, performance raises (at least let’s hope the raises are for performance).  Once the overall budget is approved, individual managers and department heads should have some leeway to reward/compensate employees within the fiscal constraints they have to operate under (aka, “the department budget”).  Inserting Aldermanic review of individual salary raises only opens the entire process up to political patronage and political retribution.

posted by: Bill Saunders on March 20, 2017  1:22pm

JamesJ,

Your final assertion makes no sense. 

I would think that opening the process up would be a ‘check and balance’ against political patronage and retribution.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on March 20, 2017  3:06pm

To the Alderman that quarrel with this surreptitious money grab agreed upon by the mayor, how are you going to vote?

The message that I would send back to the mayor if were still on the board is, if you cannot ratify the contracts of Locals 3144, Local 884, Local 71, police, public works, Corporation Counsel, nurses and executive and confidential employees, then we must immediately rescind the raises.

Furthermore, the BoA voted for a MOU (I believe in 2015) which states that labor contracts must cease and desist until a legal analysis and fiscal impact statement has been provided and BoA approval has been granted.  But this was not done. 

Additionally, language called “financial obligation to the budget” was also implemented by the BoA.  This language more broadly means that the board of Alderman must again be notified before raises can be issued.  But because the mayor has zero respect for the legislative branch of government, and because the legislative branch (in my view) doesn’t deserve respect because of their chronic dithering, fear of a challenge, marching orders to the contrary, family members or friends the administration has hired and inability to read the legislation that they’re either for or against.  However, I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize Al Paolillo specifically; and a couple of others who do appear to have respectable standing. 

“Melita said that any such increases in salaries are likely incorporated into the individual budgets of the departments. City Budget Director Joe Clerkin concurred with Melita that the costs of any such raises are likely spread across departments.”  Whenever money is removed from a department, you must fill out a “change order.”  Where’s the order Mr. Clerkin?

I’m sure readers are wondering about mayor’s raise.  The mayor has a city owned credit card that she uses as a raise regularly.  She knows that the BoA refuses to call her on her reckless spending activities. 

Has anyone seen Alderwoman Hamilton?

posted by: Elm City Resident on March 21, 2017  8:03am

I agree with @JamesJ that the Board of Alders has no place in determining individual salaries.  Overall budget scrutinizing, yes. Discretion over individual salaries, no.  I assume the NHI has determined that it is wrong to post the Harp Administration’s personnel evaluations (and it was wrong to post the DeStefano Administration’s personnel evaluations), since we’ve not seen any Harp Administration personnel evaluations to date.  I raise this only in relation to this story since, typically, raises are given because an individual’s performance merits it.  Mayor Harp, the Superintendent, etc. would be within their right to give increases if the evaluations dictated as such. However, discretion over individual salaries are not now nor should they ever be the purview of the Board of Alders.

[Ed.: I respectfully disagree with you that it was wrong to post those evaluations. The state Freedom of Information Commission ruled that this was legitimate public information.  In any case, you apparently missed this story: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/evaluations_shed_little_light/ ]

posted by: NHPS Teacher on March 21, 2017  11:46am

Raises for NHPS admin, but cutting teachers, enrichment, and pay increases?  Couldn’t they forego raises just like the teachers, and possibly maintain some positions or programs? 

Mayor-President Harp has no evidence her 10 point plan was helpful (or fully implemented), so I am unsure of her ability to lead our schools.

#paca

posted by: beyonddiscussion on March 21, 2017  11:33pm

You have to hate hypocrisy. This administration rails against Trump policies and values while passing out raise after raise to the highest paid insiders in the city, seamlessly shuffling money around from pot to pot. Meanwhile, the take home pay of average frontline city workers goes down, and they and their families suffer year after year without contracts or salary increases. In fact, in the case of union 3144, the city is actively coming after members to break that union up. It’s unconscionable. At least Trump is honest about what he’s doing.

posted by: Adrian35 on March 22, 2017  3:55am

Brian: Thanks for your support of city Unions working under expired contracts now -  some going on two years now.  Not to mention the city and horrible union leadership gutted most contracts last time around. It seems the city is adrift and would rather pay enormous amounts of overtime to city employees instead of keeping up its work force - thus not having to pay out medical packages to new hires. How do some city employees reel in TRIPLE the amount in OVERTIME compared to a a base salary of say…..58K?  And in many cases all this overtime is calculated towards pension payouts for life.  Makes you wonder what is going on in this city?  Anybody watching the books? Doesn’t look like it.