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Harford council overrides Craig's veto of raise for his successor

The Harford County Council voted Thursday night to override a veto of legislation that will increase the base pay of the next county executive from $90,000 annually to $130,000.

It took less than five minutes for the council to convene in a special session and vote 6-1 to override County Executive David Craig's veto, which was issued Tuesday. Council members did not comment.

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Pending a required 60-day period to allow the measure to petitioned to referendum, the legislation will take effect in late November, but the raise itself won't kick in until the start of the next fiscal year on July 1, 2015.

In a lengthy veto message, Craig had said the legislation would provide his successor "a significant pay raise" that would cost taxpayers a minimum of $100,000 over the next four years.

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Craig, who is term-limited and will leave office in early December, also pointed out that both the next county executive and members of the next council will still be eligible to receive annual cost of living increases tied to the Consumer Price Index, provided county employees also receive similar raises in a given year. Craig's salary current salary is $105,136.

The override vote appears to bring to a close a two-month controversy that began on Aug. 12, when Council President Billy Boniface and Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti introduced separate bills to raise the salaries of the executive and the seven council members who will take office following the Nov. 4 general election. Under the county charter, Harford elected officials cannot receive base salary increases passed during their terms.

Neither sponsor is returning to the next council, but four other members are running back for their seats and Councilman Richard Slutzky is running for council president.

The bill that called for increasing the base pay of a council member and of the council president to $45,000 and $48,000, respectively, was withdrawn by the sponsors on Sept. 2, following public criticism of the proposed increases. Council members are currently paid $36,210, the council president $39,718. Boniface said he did not have the votes to pass that bill.

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The same evening, however, the council passed the executive pay increase by a 5-1 margin with one abstention. Craig had told council members even before the bills were introduced that he would veto them.

Slutzky, who voted against the bill, also voted against the motion to override. Councilman Dion Guthrie, however, voted for the override after previously abstaining on the bill.

Guthrie said afterward he felt a clear majority of the council had spoken when it approved the bill. "My vote was support the council's majority decision, not the bill," he explained.

Boniface said Tuesday's special session became necessary because the timing of Craig's veto did not allow the council to consider the veto at its regular session on Oct. 8 and meet the referendum period requirement before Dec. 2, when the new executive's term begins. Had the bill taken become law on or after that date, he said, the new executive would have been barred by the charter from receiving the higher salary.

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