Akron City Council may vote to give itself an in-term pay increase Thursday — a move that the Ohio Ethics Commission says could violate state law.
Elected officials are barred from boosting their current pay.
“That’s pretty much the general rule,” Ethics Commission Executive Director Paul Nick said.
Despite that prohibition, the council is debating legislation that would grant themselves and all other city workers a 3 percent raise retroactive to Jan. 3 and 2.5 percent raises in the next two years.
The council has set a special meeting for 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the council chambers to vote on the wage increases and health care changes for both bargaining and non-bargaining employees.
Council President Marilyn Keith said the legislation could be amended before the vote if there is a potential problem with state law.
“We won’t do anything under my reign that isn’t ethical,” she said.
If adopted, the council pay would rise to $34,694. The council president would make $44,616.
New Mayor Dan Horrigan, who has been in office for less than a month, originally was set to get a raise, as well. But the administration yanked his position out of the legislation when it was delivered Monday night to the council.
His cabinet — many of whom also have been in their jobs for less than a month — are still in line for the pay increase.
City officials have said that it’s been a longstanding practice to extend raises being provided to the unions to all city employees, including the mayor and council members.
The city law department has said it is researching the issue, including whether the council approved in-term pay increases for itself and the mayor three years ago.
City Law Director Eve Belfance didn’t return phone calls Thursday seeking comment.
The council was slated to vote on the legislation Monday, but opted to postpone the vote after members raised questions about administrative raises and salaries.
The council decided to call the special meeting after George Johnson, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1360, urged the body not to wait until next week to deal with the issue.
He said he wants the city’s approximately 1,400 union workers and other non-bargaining employees to see their pay increases as soon as possible.
Union leaders say they worked hard to broker the three-year agreement, which includes concessions in health benefits in addition to the pay increases. They were upset at the last-minute delay and said city officials should have worked out their internal concerns before Monday and not hold up the raises for employees.
In addition to the pay increases, the proposal calls for changes to health benefits. For example, employees would pay more toward their health insurance and it would require spouses, in most cases, to get their insurance through their employers if it’s offered.
City officials estimated that the pay increases would cost about $3.2 million a year, but they also expect to save about the same amount by shifting some of the health insurance costs to employees.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.