Pay raises put Hayden under fire Executive denies pulling a fast one

September 21, 1992|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

Baltimore County Council members say they never approved and don't remember voting for the 4.5 percent pay raises that County Executive Roger B. Hayden gave to 37 political appointees this year.

And some are miffed because they first heard of it in the newspapers.

"It's bad policy, bad politics, bad business and bad government," said Douglas B. Riley, Towson's Republican councilman.

Mr. Hayden denied yesterday that he was trying to pull a fast one.

"There was no attempt to hide this from anyone," he declared.

"The money that allows us to do this is included in the $8 million in the budget" for step and longevity raises for other county employees, he said, adding that he considered the raises for appointees, which will cost $34,000 this year, a tiny part of that larger package.

But no County Council member acknowledges knowingly voting for the raises for appointees, although six of the seven members voted "aye" on the budget.

"It wasn't in the budget I voted for," said Chairman William A. Howard IV, a 6th District Republican.

Later in an interview, Mr. Hayden backed off his contention that the money for the appointees' pay raises was included in the budget for step and longevity raises and said he was not sure where the money was.

County Administrative Officer Mereen E. Kelly said that the final decision to authorize the raises did not come until after the council had approved the budget.

Mr. Howard, elected in 1990 as a Republican ally of Mr. Hayden, declined to criticize the executive. But others were not so shy.

Mr. Riley said he is particularly incensed because he discouraged approval of a similar move that Mr. Hayden proposed in the spring of 1991, when Mr. Riley was council

chairman.

Mr. Riley said that when he asked the council's auditor in May whether there were raises for appointed department heads in the fiscal 1993 budget the council was considering, he was told no.

Now, he and the other council members have learned that several appointees got pay raises July 2, the day after the budget they approved in May took effect. The others are due raises on the anniversaries of their appointments.

"That means that he [Mr. Hayden] sent us a budget document that misrepresented spending. . . . His credibility is shot to hell," Mr. Riley said.

Mr. Hayden said yesterday that the money for increasing appointees' pay doesn't really constitute pay raises.

"We did not have pay raises," the executive said, adding that the money is no different from the longevity and step increases approved for the bulk of county workers.

The appointed officials, Mr. Hayden said, are chronically falling behind their merit system subordinates in pay and "should not be discriminated against."

He called the controversy "a tempest in a teapot. It's been blown all out of proportion."

Sources within the administration said Mr. Hayden is convinced that his appointees deserve the money but that he didn't foresee the political fallout from the move.

It was voter anger at similar small but symbolic gestures by then-Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen that helped Mr. Hayden defeat the entrenched, well-financed incumbent.

Most council members said they have had several calls from constituents complaining about the raises, and all of the county's labor leaders have complained. The Maryland Classified Employees Association sent Mr. Hayden a letter demanding that the raises be retracted.

The relatively small amount needed to cover the raises this year did not have to be provided specifically in a budget as large as Baltimore County's $1 billion spending plan, said council auditor Stephen L. Kirchner.

A job left vacant several weeks longer than usual or a delayed purchase of supplies could easily save $34,000 during the year, he said.

But he conceded that there was no line item in the budget providing raises for appointed officials.

All seven council members said this week that they disapprove of the appointee raises, though most were restrained in their criticism.

Several said they don't think the episode damaged Mr. Hayden's credibility with the council. Dundalk Councilman Donald Mason,

elected in the tax revolt that brought Mr. Hayden to office, noted that he voted against the entire budget.

"I wouldn't have given the pay raise," said Mr. Mason. But he added, "I'm not going to second-guess Roger." Mr. Mason is a Democrat who represents the 7th District.

Most council members were miffed at first hearing about the raises from news reports. "I don't like hearing it from you instead of from Roger," Councilman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger told a reporter.

"It's not the money, it's the principle," said the 3rd District Democrat, who added that he did not think that Mr. Hayden "was attempting to be devious."

Councilman Vince Gardina took a less charitable view. "It's absolutely been damaged," the Essex Democrat said of Mr. Hayden's credibility. "We were trying to justify a 5 percent increase in the piggyback [income] tax. We can't justify pay increases that were hidden for political appointees. He should have come before the council and not sneak in the back door."

Catonsville's councilwoman, Berchie Lee Manley, a Republican, said she also wondered where the money for the raises was lodged in the budget. "This is not the time" to be granting pay raises, she said.

"I just feel he made a wrong decision," said Pikesville Democrat Melvin G. Mintz. But he, too, said he did not feel deceived.

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