The Braintree Town Council spent more than $21,000 researching and debating the mayor’s salary, roughly the same amount of the raise they eventually approved, according to recently released reports.
According to an invoice from the council’s auditor, who is paid a $125/hour, the auditor spent 253.1 hours doing research on the mayor’s salary review, costing the town $21,556.
That research resulted in a 242-page document councilors relied upon in deciding to hike the mayor’s salary from $105,000 to $125,000.
According to Councilor and Committee on Ways and Means chairman Paul “Dan” Clifford - who asked for the research - the study was worth it.
“I think the results were outstanding,” Clifford said.
Clifford said the document did a comparison between the mayors’ salaries in several Massachusetts municipalities, and also looked at the salaries of other types of executive leadership (town administrators and town managers) in comparable towns.
The research led Clifford to suggest a salary of approximately $117,000 for Mayor Joseph Sullivan.
The council didn't support the smaller number. Instead, after seven months of debate, councilors voted for an increase to $125,000.
That increase will go into effect January 2014 and will be in place for future mayors.
Though Clifford's conclusions based on the data went unsupported, the information still helped Braintree make a decision in a bigger context, Clifford said.
"It also showed where Braintree stands in relationship with those like communities," he said.
The research also delved into best management practices in other communities, and was not only useful in deciding where the Braintree mayor’s salary should be, but can be used in the future to develop a master plan for the budget.
“If people take a look and we take advantage of [the research], the cost overall, if we implement those best practices and improve…it would be miniscule,” Clifford said.
For Councilor John Mullaney, the previous chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, the amount of research Clifford asked for was too much.
“I go back to the fact that I was on the successful side of the argument and I spent nothing and did all the research myself on a computer,” Mullaney said, who initially suggested an increase to $130,000 and then later suggested the lower $125,000 figure. “It was a simple issue - do we pay the mayor based on the compensation of other mayors or do we do it based on the salaries given to executive secretaries and town managers. The argument was as simple as that, and we didn’t need all this other stuff.”
Mullaney said majority of the research was irrelevant, including a spreadsheet that showed how the mayor’s salary increase would result in similar increases to other town employees.
In his four-year tenure, Mullaney said he never spent that much on auditing services, at most asking for $10,000-$20,000 worth of research.
Though the council has a spending cap of $80,000 a year on auditor services, Mullaney said the council shouldn’t have to spend it all.
“You have a guy that wanted to do the best for the town and it cost them $22,000. I’ve already put a call in to Kokoros and I asked that he be responsible and restrict the [research] spending by Clifford in this new [issue] with the meals tax. I’m afraid we’ll have comparable expenditures,” Mullaney said.
Clifford wouldn’t comment on how his methodology of research might be better, but said that it would behoove the council to use expertise wherever it could.
“We have an auditor and a CPA, and we should be utilizing his expertise and bringing the benefit to Braintree. That itself is a gold mine. That analysis is a gold mine,” Clifford said.
To see a list of the auditor’s expenses, click here.