Guthrie also said Councilman Joe Woods was not aware of the raise.

Boniface takes responsibility

Boniface said he feels the issue is the result of "a lot of misunderstanding," one he blames himself for.

He explained the council administrator presented her case to the personnel committee in June for the job reclassification and a salary increase.

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"She brought up some good points and I said I would discuss the issue with my colleagues," Boniface said. "This wasn't something the personnel committee could take action on. It needed council support."

Less than a week later, on June 18, Boniface's son was killed in a pickup truck accident on the family's farm and, as a result, the council president didn't return to work until two weeks ago. During that period, the council held only one legislative session in July, which Boniface did not attend, and none in August, typically a summer recess period.

It was Boniface's understanding the council had taken action on the raise, based on his impression he had already spoken to each council member prior to his leave of absence.

"That wasn't the case," he said. "It was a huge misunderstanding on how it was handled and I take responsibility for that. I still should've conveyed to my colleagues that we haven't had that discussion yet."

Boniface said colleagues have since told him they understood the classification/pay grade change, but they didn't recognize it also included an actual pay raise. He said raising the salary without a public vote of the full council violates "clearly the language that is in the code."

He said he would speak to the human resources department and council attorney soon to begin straightening things out, so the council can start back at square one.

"I think this is something the council as a whole needs to have a discussion on and, if any action is taken, to do so we need to do it in [legislative] session," he said.

Boniface wasn't sure when any vote might take place, explaining Slutzky has been away and Lisanti will soon be going away for a period of time.

As soon as everyone is back from their summer vacations, he said, the council will hold a closed session to talk about the personnel issue and then hold a vote in open session, if warranted.

"The language is clear in the charter that it needs to be an action of the council as a whole," Boniface said about any action to change the administrator's salary.

Effective Tuesday, he added, Meister was returned to her previous salary and any money she has been paid above that level will be refunded to the county.

Boniface stressed that Meister personally had no role in what transpired and that the controversy "doesn't reflect on the council administrator."

"If anybody is at fault, they can blame me," he said. "I'm the boss."

Aegis staff member Allan Vought contributed to this article.