Another pay raise ploy

Carroll County: Commissioners should veto per diem increase and open issue to public comment.

April 14, 1999

SURELY, the Carroll County commissioners would not make the same mistake again. But another scheme for hiking their per diem compensation is included in the budget proposed for the next fiscal year.

Instead of $12-a-day in pocket money, the three commissioners would receive $675 a month, doubling their average current daily rate. That's in addition to an annual salary of $32,500 and reimbursements for meals and other job expenses.

Fortunately, two commissioners say they will vote to delete that controversial item. That's the proper decision, ethically correct and consistent with the public parsimony preached by the trio.

It's not the extra expense. It's the way the commissioners tried to slip a personal pay hike into their first budget. They told Budget Director Steven D. Powell, who directly works for them, to devise an increase in their per diem.

His proposal was $675 monthly, to cover the cost of an automobile and a home office. Because these items are work expenses, the increase would be legal for this term, the county attorney said.

But there was no call for public hearings or discussion, merely another back-door approach to enrich the newly elected commissioners. Recall that the previous board of commissioners voted last November, without public notice, to raise the next board's per diem by 650 percent, to $90 a day. That raise was rescinded after vehement public outcry.

No one denies that the per diem should be raised; the $25 daily rate implied in the $675 monthly plan is not unreasonable (although some question the "home office" allowance when new commissioner offices were built in 1998).

But the expense account must not be used as a salary increase. The state legislature has to approve salary raises. Most important, the public deserves a full voice on the issue. The commissioners would be wise to listen.

Pub Date: 4/14/99

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