Pay raises for 2 top officials get preliminary council OK

May 24, 1994|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

The Baltimore City Council gave preliminary approval last night to a bill to raise the salaries of two top city officials from $75,000 to $110,000 a year -- but not before a caustic exchange of comments on the council floor.

The bill, which drew an 11-7 vote with one abstention, would raise the salaries of City Solicitor Neal Janey and Public Works Director George Balog by 47 percent, retroactive to Jan. 1. It would be their first raise in seven years.

The debate over the $35,000-a-year raises pitted City Council President Mary Pat Clarke and 2nd District Councilman Carl Stokes against City Council Vice President Vera P. Hall and 2nd District Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge. Mrs. Clarke plans to run for mayor next year, and Mr. Stokes and Ms. Hall have announced they will be rivals to fill the council presidency.

Mrs. Clarke and Mr. Stokes said it was unconscionable to grant top officials such large raises when unionized city workers are getting just over a 2 percent raise.

"This is a disgrace," said Mrs. Clarke.

"I think it is unfair to ask the citizens to give that big a raise when we are not able to find money to do other things," added Mr. Stokes.

Mr. Ambridge, a frequent political ally of Mrs. Clarke's, and Ms. Hall said the salaries of the city solicitor and public works director needed to be brought in line with those of other top city officials, such as the police commissioner and school superintendent, who both earn more than $100,000 a year.

"This bill is overdue. We hold these employees responsible for an awful lot," Ms. Hall said.

The $35,000 raise was $10,000 more than the increase proposed for the two posts when the bill was introduced last fall.

The extra money came from an amendment introduced by Mr. Ambridge. "They probably won't get a raise for another 10 years," he said later.

Mr. Stokes said the $25,000 raise first proposed was acceptable but that the additional $10,000 was "unreasonable."

Because the city solicitor and public works director sit on the Board of Estimates, which must approve all city financial transactions, the council must approve legislation to raise their salaries.

Raises for other high-ranking appointed officials require only approval by the board.

Besides Mr. Ambridge and Ms. Hall, those voting in favor of the bill were council members Nicholas C. D'Adamo, Jr. and Perry Sfikas, D-1st; Paula Johnson Branch, D-2nd; Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham and Martin E. "Mike" Curran, D-3rd; Sheila Dixon, D-4th; Iris Reeves and Rochelle "Rikki" Spector, D-5th; and

Melvin Stukes, D-6th.

Opposing the bill, in addition to Mrs. Clarke and Mr. Stokes, were John L. Cain, D-1st; Martin O'Malley, D-3rd; Lawrence Bell, D-4th; and Joseph J. DiBlasi and Timothy D. Murphy, D-6th.

Councilwoman Agnes Welch, D-4th, abstained.

Also last night, the council:

* Approved legislation to freeze the number of pawnbroker licenses issued by the city at its current number, 45.

* Introduced a bill to set up a special taxing district in Charles Village.

* Gave preliminary approval to charter revision amendments.

* Introduced legislation to approve the 1995 budget and cut a nickel off the property tax rate.

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