Twon councilors are struggling to find common ground in a debate about raising the Braintree mayor’s salary.
Councilors have been ciscussing an increase to the mayor’s salary since August, after Councilor John Mullaney suggested that the annual salary be raised from the present $105,000 to $130,000.
At the time, over 70 people in Braintree government made more than the mayor. Now, that number is over 100, Mullaney said in a phone interview this week.
Councilors since decided to send the issue to committee for further review, yet after months of discussion and several meetings, the issue hasn't been settled.
According to Mullaney, debate became harried during this Wednesday’s meeting, when councilors differed over how to compare the mayor’s salary with those in other towns.
“I wanted to vote [on] whether or not executive secretaries and town managers should be included in the debate, and [Committee Chair Dan Clifford] said there would be no vote like that,” Mullaney said.
Debate raged on until Mullaney walked off the panel to sit in the audience, saying he wanted to “watch the show,” Mullaney said. He later abstained from a council vote.
For Mullaney, there is a potential time crunch for a decision to be made.
“Mayor [Joseph] Sullivan is so competent that the position for state treasurer opened up…I think Mayor Sullivan would be an excellent candidate, and that could come in 2014. If Steve Lynch runs for Congress, Mayor Sullivan would be an excellent candidate for that,” Mullaney said.
Setting a new salary, which wouldn’t go into effect until the following election, is a necessity for securing high-quality candidates in the future, Mullaney said.
“If we’re going to attract talent, we should put the salary out there…Mayor Sullivan is a gold mine, we lucked out getting him. But when I look around, I’m not sure what will follow,” Mullaney said.
According to Clifford, however, the discussions have been amicable and productive, and the time well spent.
“We’re just going through the process of due diligence,” Clifford said. “We have a council auditor, and he’s gathering information … there’s still more following the meetings this week, there are additional requests for additional information that will be provided at the next meeting.”
And while no solutions to the mayor salary question have been finalized, the options are at hand, Clifford said.
There are eight options the council is reviewing and a slew of data over salary changes in Braintree in the last decade, and salary comparisons with those in nearby towns.
“It’s all in the digestion and evolutionary stage. It’s a lot of information,” Clifford said.
Clifford declined to outline any of the specifics to the proposal, but said that the committee had scheduled three more meetings for January to further discuss a direction.
“We’ll come to some recommendation over the next six weeks or so,” Clifford said.
Once the Committee of Ways and Means makes a recommendation, the article will move on to the Committee on Rules and Ordinance for review. A full council vote will be necessary to pass any changes.
At the end of the day, whatever is recommended will be something that has been thoroughly thought out and processed, Clifford said.
“The Ways and Means Committee is working very hard and as a team to make sure the final product is fair and equitable, and it’s our responsibility to be a deliberative body in this process. So that’s where it’s at,” Clifford said.