Mayor defies council over appointee

August 19, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

Acting in defiance of the city aldermen, Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins has notified his public information director that he intends to keep him on the job at his current salary.

The City Council in June eliminated the position of director of public information and tourism in an effort to trim the 1994-1995 fiscal budget. The job had paid $59,609.

At the same time, the council created a new position of public information officer, with a salary of $41,126.

In a letter dated Aug. 8, Mr. Hopkins told the director of public information, Thomas Roskelly, that he was appointing him to the job of public information officer.

He also said he would "red-line" Mr. Roskelly's salary so that he could continue to receive $59,609.

"Such red-line will remain in effect until the salary schedule for your new position catches up," the mayor wrote.

The action drew protest from the aldermen who received copies of the letter this week.

"I think the mayor has overstepped his authority," said Alderman Shepard Tullier, a Ward 4 Democrat.

"We're not going to let him do this," said Alderman Theresa DeGraff, a Ward 7 Republican. "If he pushes the council, the council will push back."

She said the council could file a complaint with the ethics commission-- or even vote to impeach the mayor if he persists in trying to defy the council.

Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat and head of the city's finance committee, said that if the mayor did not rescind the letter, he would ask City Attorney Paul Goetzke for a legal opinion on the action.

Mr. Goetzke said yesterday that "red-lining" is permitted with the city's civil service employees to safeguard their salaries if they are transferred to lower job classifications.

But Mr. Goetzke said he has yet to determine whether it is permitted with employees such as Mr. Roskelly, who serve at the pleasure of the mayor and are exempt from the city's civil service system.

Mr. Hopkins said he believes he has the authority to maintain Mr. Roskelly's salary at its present level. "If I'm challenged, I accept the challenge," he said.

The mayor said he believed Mr. Roskelly should be kept at his current salary because of the quality of work he does.

"If that person isn't around, the aldermen won't get a lot of things done that they want done," he said.

It was unclear where the money to pay the higher salary would come from. Mr. Snowden said the finance committee would not approve the expenditure, although the mayor said he believed the money could be found somewhere.

When the council adopted its $38 million operating budget in June, most of the discussion concerned the elimination of positions.

The council voted to merge the positions of public information specialist and public information coordinator, leaving the mayor the choice of naming one of those employees to the new position of public information officer.

Since then, the mayor often has said that the council failed to appreciate the work Mr. Roskelly did to promote the city and coordinate events.

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