Harford council administrator gets 6.8 percent raise

Harford County Council Administrator Pam Meister is getting a nearly 7 percent raise after the council met in a 4-1/2-hour-long closed session Tuesday afternoon.

Her salary was increased to $101,421 as of Thursday, a 6.75 percent raise, county human resources director Scott Gibson confirmed. Meister has been with the council for about 11 months.

Earlier in the summer, she received a 22 percent raise, which was rescinded by the county council in late August after it became public knowledge. County Council President Billy Boniface called the 22 percent raise and its subsequent elimination product of a "huge misunderstanding."

Though the county's personnel office confirmed the recent 6.75 percent raise for Meister, the county council has been silent in the matter as well as on other business discussed at the Tuesday afternoon secret session.

It has been disclosed that there were four items on the agenda for discussion at the Tuesday session, and all for were approved Tuesday evening after the council emerged from closed session.

Only Councilman Chad Shrodes, who originally said he wanted a public revisiting of Meister's salary, voted against one of the agenda items, but neither he, nor any of the other council members, would say which one or what it involved.

No one, however, has said so far what was discussed, other than calling it "the assignment and duties of individual employees."

Boniface said the closed session involved discussions of the council, Meister, new council attorney Melissa Lambert and assistant county attorney Debbie Duvall.

He said no action was taken during the closed session.

"This has been a difficult task that we needed to deal with today and the outcome is a consensus of everyone voting together in four hours on the issue," Boniface said Tuesday night.

He thanked the council for "voting diligently" and thanked the council administrator for her role in the process.

"She has been outstanding and we'll move on from here," he said.

On Wednesday, Councilman Dick Slutzky said his understanding is that the council members are not legally allowed to talk about anything they did at the meeting, as it was not public information.

"That information is sealed and cannot be divulged by people present there unless they waive their legal protection," Slutzky said, explaining they were in consultation with two lawyers at the meeting.

Shrodes, who said he was initially "shocked" at Meister's 22 percent raise, declined to comment on his vote Tuesday night.

"I am sorry, but I am unable to comment at this time regarding agenda item 4," he said in an e-mail Wednesday.

Shrodes directed all questions to Lambert, who was not available this week.

When The Aegis revealed in late August that Meister's salary had been approved for a raise from $95,000 to $116,000 after working less than a year with the council, Shrodes questioned the entire rationale of the council's personnel committee, which consists of three of the six council members.

Action to approve the 22 percent raise was taken June 25.

"I just don't think it's right the personnel [committee] is making so many of these decisions," he told The Aegis in August. "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.

Councilman Dion Guthrie told The Aegis in August 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.

Guthrie also said Wednesday he could not talk about what happened at the closed session.

Boniface, who was temporarily absent earlier in the summer after the sudden death of his son, said his understanding was 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. He also took public responsibility for the misunderstanding and its fallout.

Boniface said colleagues have since told him they understood the classification/pay grade change, but they didn't recognize it also included a pay raise.

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