Finance panel resists mayor's deal with appointee

September 02, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

The Annapolis City Council's Finance Committee moved yesterday to block Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins' attempts to pay his public information officer a higher salary than what the council approved in June.

The committee directed William Tyler, the director of finance, to put the difference between what council voted to pay Thomas Roskelly and the mayor's offer in escrow.

The money would be withheld until the council receives advice from an independent lawyer and discusses the issue at its next meeting, on Sept. 12.

"You can either resolve it politically or judicially, and I think we're heading toward the latter," said Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat and head of the council's finance committee.

In June, the City Council eliminated Mr. Roskelly's position as 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 Mr. Roskelly that he was appointing him public information officer. He also said he would "red-line" Mr. Roskelly's salary so Mr. Roskelly could continue to receive a salary of $59,609.

Although some council members were outraged at the mayor's action, Mr. Hopkins refused to back down.

City Attorney Paul 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.

He has asked a former city attorney, Frederick C. Sussman, for an opinion on whether the same can be done for employees appointed by the mayor.

That opinion is to be issued by Sept. 9.

Mr. Snowden said that paying Mr. Roskelly whatever the mayor wants would be setting a dangerous precedent.

He said fairness is also an issue, because several city employees lost their jobs this year due to budget cuts.

Alderman Shepard Tullier, a Ward 4 Democrat, said he was concerned that the mayor's memo to Mr. Roskelly seemed to imply that Mr. Roskelly would have his job for as long as he wanted.

"I think the mayor has exceeded his authority," he said.

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