Ducking controversy in Columbia

May 04, 1994

In a move that can only be perceived as snubbing its nose at Columbia residents, the Columbia Council last week announced the salary increase and bonus it is granting to Columbia Association President Padraic Kennedy. The announcement came less than a week after elections were held for members of the council and the city's village boards.

The timing underscores the inexcusable arrogance and detachment council members and association officials have for residents of the city. It is just one more example of why the pervasive culture of the council and association needs to be eradicated from Columbia governance.

The wisdom of decisions made by the council regarding Mr. Kennedy's pay can be debated, and should be. That is precisely why residents of the city were entitled to know about the pay increase prior to the April 23 election.

What Mr. Kennedy is paid is an indication of the financial and bureaucratic health of the association, as well as the council's goals and its ability to judge such matters.

This year, Mr. Kennedy received a 10.6 percent increase in his base salary, bringing his annual pay to $102,985, effective May 1. Officials are quick to point out that Mr. Kennedy will actually earn slightly less than last year, when a $11,175 bonus boosted his compensation to $104,289.

What seems to be missing is any cognizance of the size of both increases, which are outrageously out of proportion with recent compensation decisions by government or private industry. As the nation squirmed under the weight of a recession, with salary increases generally held below 5 percent, the Columbia Council has been throwing money at its top administrator.

Council officials will argue that changes in Mr. Kennedy's salary are determined by a variety of considerations. For instance, deficit- and interest-rate reduction efforts in the previous year yielded some significant savings to the association. In addition, membership income increased by $600,000 in the past year.

But were this simply a matter of Mr. Kennedy's being adequately compensated for a job well done, the council should at least have had the decency to make its feelings known before last week. If the council wants to increase voter activity, it should make decisions such as this one prior to the election.

That way, voter turnout won't be a problem.

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