MOUNT VERNON — By a 4 to 2 vote, Mount Vernon City Council members declined to support Law Director Rob Broeren’s request to raise the salary for the city’s assistant law directors.
Council members Tammy Woods, John Francis, Mike Hillier and Janis Seavolt voted no. Councilman Mel Severns was not present.
While Broeren proposed a $10,000 increase for each of the assistant law directors, the crux of the issue is the compensation for Assistant Law Director 2.
The current compensation for ALD #2 is $62,289. The city has filled the position twice in the last year, only to have each assistant leave in four months.
Human Resource Director Denise Johnson told council at their May 22 meeting that one cited pay as the reason for leaving.
“He got $10,000 more at Delaware,” she said.
The increase to $72,289 would put the position close to the $73,000 market average highlighted in the city’s recent compensation study.
It also puts the salary slightly below the current ALD#1 pay scale of $73,669. To maintain the consideration of experience and responsibilities between the two assistants, Broeren proposed increasing pay for the ALD #1 by $10,000 as well.
Johnson has advertised in multiple places, including Linked In, social media, Indeed, and the seven law schools in Ohio. The city has had zero applicants.
Councilman Francis said the increase is problematic.
“If we can’t find someone to work for us, we just gotta keep looking,” he said. “This is just adding more money to a position that we don’t even know who’s going to be hired into it to work into it.”
He added that council has to hold to its budget commitment, which is the current salaries, not higher salaries.
Councilman Hillier said that he doubted the Assistant Law Director #1 would get a mid-year raise if it weren’t for the issue with the ALD #2 pay.
“It does say to anyone who isn’t a union employee to ask for more money,” he said. “I understand it’s hard hiring people, but I don’t think we can just keep throwing money at things.”
Council President Bruce Hawkins questioned whether council was concerned about no raise or just the raise being recommended.
Broeren said the city is competing against the higher salaries noted in the compensation study.
“It’s not that we don’t have anyone we like. We don’t have any qualified applicants,” he said, adding that part of the reason why is because there are not as many people becoming lawyers. “We spent a significant amount of money on the last candidate who then took $10,000 and went elsewhere.”
Auditor Terry Scott said that with Delaware’s rapid growth, Mount Vernon cannot compete with Delaware’s pay scale. He noted fewer lawyers complicates the issue but said that in his personal view, the assistant law directors’ compensation seems to be slighted a bit.
Supporting the pay increase, Council member Amber Keener said, “I think we’re relying heavily on lawyers from outside the county to come here and just love it so much that they want to live and work here for less than they could make 20 miles away.”
Council members took the following additional legislative actions during their June 12 meeting:
•Gave the second reading to legislation changing DORA (Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area) signage
•Authorized the sale of six vehicles from the MVPD impound lot and one forfeited vehicle
•Gave the first reading to legislation authorizing the bidding and contracting for the Buckeye Addition water line project
•Approved supplemental appropriations, including $30,801 from the Ariel Foundation for the city’s tree-watering program, $6,500 to PAK United, $2,181 from Paul Acitelli for the pool, and $130,500 for a new restroom at Harmony Playground
•Approved a petition to create a New Community Authority (NCA)
•Gave the first reading to an ordinance changing the zoning for 120 and 130 S. Norton St. and 1104 W. Gambier St. from Clinton Township zoning to General Business
•Approved the rezoning of 301-303 N. Norton St. to PCDD from R-1
•Gave second readings to legislation rezoning 600 W. Vine St. from R-2 to General Business, vacating a portion of Lewis Street and South Alley between Vine and Gambier streets, and updating zoning and permit fees
•Gave the first reading to legislation updating water charges
•Gave the first reading to an ordinance changing the circumstances under which properties qualify for abatements in the CRA (Community Reinvestment Area)
•Gave the first reading to legislation consenting to the annexation of 4.25 acres from Clinton Township into the city
Kurt Hintershied spoke about the city’s pickleball courts, four each at Memorial and Riverside parks. Referencing plans to expand Riverside Park to six courts, he said eight courts all at Riverside is a better option.
Hintershied said the city does not need 10 courts (four at Memorial and the proposed six at Riverside), and consolidating all the money in one place is better. He requested the city review plans for Riverside and consider decreasing the size of the basketball court to accommodate a total of eight courts.