The challengers to current City Commissioners Curtis Richardson and Scott Maddox are questioning the explanation being forwarded by both commissioners when asked about the executive pay raises recently doled on by City Manager Rick Fernandez.
Both Richardson and Maddox say there is nothing they could have done about the five-digit raises because the City’s Charter prohibits commissioner “interference” with personnel matters.
However, the challengers are not buying the explanation.
In an exclusive interview with TR, Maddox challengers Dr. Bruce Strouble and Luther Lee both said they see it differently than Maddox.
Maddox told the Tallahassee Democrat that under the city charter, commissioners can’t “second guess the workings of the appointed officials” but can hire and fire them.
Dr. Bruce Strouble told TR, “based on my detailed review of the City of Tallahassee Charter, I can find no language that expresses that the City Commission is prohibited from reviewing and suggesting appropriate salaries for the City Staff.”
He added that while the staff are well qualified, “I do not believe that the amount of the raises given was justified” and as a City Commissioner “I would have called for an independent review to determine more appropriate salaries.”
Luther Lee told TR the City Charter says “The city manager shall be responsible to the city commission for the proper administration of all affairs of the city…SO, it is not a ‘hands off’ rule. The Commissioners have a duty to serve the citizens of Tallahassee and part of that duty includes responsible use of tax dollars.”
Lee added that “While the people who received raises may be hardworking and deserving of fair pay,…These raises do not seem to be in the best interest of the citizens of Tallahassee.”
Last week City Commissioner Curtis Richardson and challenger Steven Hougland squared off on WFSU’s public affairs show, Perspectives. Richardson stated the City Charter kept him from addressing the raises but said the increases were “certainly reasonable.”
Also, in a debate on Facebook over the raises, City Commissioner Richardson wrote “the commission had no vote on this according to the city charter.”
His challenger, Steven Hougland told TR he believes the City Charter would have allowed commissioners to give more direction to the City Manager with regards to the reorganization, but “it was clear they were not interested.”
So who is right? Does the City Charter limit the commissioner discretion on the recent pay raises?
TR is seeking legal guidance, but it is important to report that neither Maddox or Richardson, in their public statements, have said that City Attorney Lew Shelley advised them on this matter.