New Martinsville Council voted unanimously Monday night to raise the salaries of the city's three full-time elected officials: chief of police, recorder, and street commissioner.
The salaries are on a three-tier system: newly elected, newly elected who was a city employee, and re-elected. Respectively, the previous and new salaries are as follows: newly elected, $28,000, $35,000; newly elected who was a city employee, $32,000, $39,000; and re-elected, $38,000, $45,000.
Councilman Steve Pallisco began the discussion on the matter by saying, "I'll obviously never turn down an increase for an employee." He noted that the elected officials have not had an increase since 2000 and "all three deserve one."
However, he said he does not agree with the three-tier system, which has been in place for about five years.
Councilman Chris Bachman agreed with that sentiment, saying he too thought the "newly elected who was a city employee" should be eliminated.
Like Pallisco, he added, "I want to make sure everybody gets the raises that they deserve."
Councilwoman Iris "Deaner" Isaacs noted that she cannot vote on the matter since she is a part-time police dispatcher. However, she said by not raising the re-elected salary to $48,000 they could get into the situation where the department head might not make as much as their employees.
"All three of those positions are very important to the city," said Pallisco. "I think all three have earned the best we can give them."
Councilwoman Holly Grandstaff-who is on the finance committee with Councilwoman Doris Fannin and Councilwoman Kay Goddard, committee chairman-said it is hard to set the salaries when they still don't know how much revenue will come from the increased business and occupation tax. This is especially true given the shut down of Ormet.
Pallisco noted the raise does not even cover a three percent annual cost of living increase over the 13 years since the last raise.
The raises, as proposed by the finance committee, were approved unanimously with Isaacs abstaining.
The raises have to be voted on by Jan. 1 in order for them to take effect on July 1 when the results of the next municipal election will take place.
Recorder Bonnie Shannon clarified that there are not any raises for the city's mayor or council members. "We didn't even discuss that," said Grandstaff.
Finally, Isaacs read a statement at the end of the council meeting concerning the controversy that never seems to die about her being both a part-time dispatcher and a councilperson.
"I have been threatened by people," said Isaacs, who said people are always saying they are going to call the West Virginia Ethics Commission about her.
She said she has been in contact with the Ethics Commission herself and read a statement from C. Joan Parker, executive director of that body: "Please be advised that you may participate in the discussion, deliberation, and vote on matters related to increasing the salary for the recorder and street commissioner positions. I am unable, as staff, however, to authorize you to vote on matters relating to the chief of police position, since you work for the police department. In fact, unless there are five or more employees of the police department, you should not vote on matters generally relating to the police department."
"I think the record will show I've never voted on any matter dealing with the police department," said Isaacs. She added that her constituents knew her involvement with the department when she was elected.
At the end of her statement, Isaacs was met with applause.