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Duluth city councilor proposes raise for mayor | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

Published November 22, 2013, 12:00 AM

Duluth city councilor proposes raise for mayor

Mayor Don Ness soon could receive a hefty raise if Duluth City Councilor Sharla Gardner has her way.

By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune

Mayor Don Ness soon could receive a hefty raise if Duluth City Councilor Sharla Gardner has her way.

On Monday, the council will consider her resolution to retroactively boost the mayor’s annual pay from $78,000 to $97,500, netting him a $19,500 windfall for the current year — a 25 percent hike.

That may sound like an excessive increase to some, but Gardner points out that the mayor’s pay was last adjusted in January 2000. She notes that if Ness had received the same across-the-board increases as union-represented employees of the city over the past 13 years, he would now be taking home an annual salary of $103,740.

What does the mayor think?

Gardner said she’s heard nothing from the mayor or his administration on her proposal.

And David Montgomery, Duluth’s chief administrative officer, indicated the mayor isn’t about to wade into the discussion.

“This is an item that’s clearly in the purview of the council. The city charter states it’s the responsibility of the council to review the mayor’s salary and set it at the appropriate level. We believe that’s the appropriate way to approach it,” Montgomery said.

Gardner said she considers it disrespectful that many Duluth city employees make more than the mayor.

“It’s frankly embarrassing,” she said.

City Council President Patrick Boyle asked whether the issue of the mayor’s salary could be put to a public referendum.

Duluth City Attorney Gunnar Johnson said that approach to setting the mayor’s pay would tread new ground.

“It has not been addressed for more than a decade, but previous to that it has been a council-driven process as set forth in the charter,” he said.

At Large City Councilor Jim Stauber pulled the resolution from the consent agenda Thursday night, ensuring that the matter will be put to a vote by the full council Monday.

“The mayor probably is not receiving adequate pay. But to give him a 25 percent raise at a time when unemployment is this high, when our population isn’t really growing, when businesses like Georgia Pacific are closing and when the city doesn’t even have the money to properly care for our roads doesn’t sit well with me. Especially if you’re going to make it retroactive,” Stauber said.

Gardner defended her proposal, noting that the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul respectively make $105,068 and $111,635 per year. She also observed that in Wisconsin the mayors of Green Bay, New Berlin, Appleton, Brookfield, Madison and Milwaukee all make larger salaries than Ness does.

Duluth city councilor proposes raise for mayor | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

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