After criticism from Harford County Council members, a salary increase for the council administrator has been rescinded and will have a proper vote "in the near future," Council President Billy Boniface said Tuesday.
The 22 percent raise for Council Administrator Pam Meister was approved June 25, according to county records, to bump up her $95,000 annual salary to $116,000. Meister was hired 10 months earlier, in August 2011. The latest development puts her back at $95,000 a year.
Revelations about the pay increase, made public in an Aegis article published Aug. 22, touched off a storm of public criticism, several council members have acknowledged.
Three council members have since disavowed having any knowledge of the pay increase beforehand, and at least one said he demanded a vote of the full council be taken during the next council meeting, which is scheduled for Sept. 4. Such a vote then appears unlikely, however.
Boniface confirmed that he instructed the county's human resources department to rescind the raise, pending future action by the full council.
Reaction from council members
County Councilman Chad Shrodes said he was "shocked" to read about the raise in The Aegis and he had no idea it had taken place.
"This needs to be brought to a vote," Shrodes said, adding he hopes that will happen at the council's first meeting in September.
He also said it appears the county charter requires the council to act as one body in all its functions and deliberations.
"I just don't think they acted on the proper authority," Shrodes said of the council's personnel committee, which consists of Boniface, Councilman Dick Slutzky and Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti.
Shrodes said the raise does not seem appropriate in light of county teachers and other employees not receiving any increase at all.
"I just think it was in bad taste," he said. "Even if you are the best person out there, the timing is wrong."
Shrodes questioned the entire rationale of the personnel committee.
"I just don't think it's right the personnel [committee] is making so many of these decisions," he said. "Usually you don't have to worry about this stuff. Maybe I trusted them too much that they were doing things the way they should be."
Shrodes noted the $21,000 raise is more than the entire salary of some people who work for the county, where salaries have been frozen for four years.
"It's a slap in the face to all local government employees," he added. "I understand that is upsetting to taxpaying residents. I was floored when I saw the amount of the salary."
Councilman Dion Guthrie called The Aegis Friday, saying he was demanding that a public voted be taken on the raise.
Like Shrodes, Guthrie said he was unaware of the raise, believing only that the council had voted earlier to change the administrator's job classification, which had the effect of raising the pay grade, and hence the salary ceiling for the job.
"This [the raise] was the work of the personnel committee, not the council," Guthrie said, adding that when he asked Slutzky for an explanation, "he told me it was a personnel matter" and wouldn't discuss it further.
Guthrie said he understood Boniface was going through a difficult time personally around the time the raise took effect; however, the entire council still should have voted on it beforehand.