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Mayor calls councilwoman out of order

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Blackmon-Brace motioned for city employee stipend

 

City Councilwoman Linda Blackmon-Brace says Mayor Joe Shaw needs to grow up – an assertion that followed his dismissal of her motion to give city employees more money.

During the Tuesday, March 27, City Council meeting, Blackmon-Brace made a motion to give each city of Lancaster employee a $75 stipend (pay supplement) each month for the remainder of the budget year, which ends June 30.

The move came during a discussion about the 2012-13 budget-planning schedule, which was led by Finance Director James Absher.

Just as Blackmon-Brace made the motion, Shaw stopped her and didn’t give the opportunity for any other council member to second the motion – preventing a vote on the matter.

Shaw, who presides over the meetings, considered Blackmon-Brace’s request out of order, given that council had been talking about planning dates for the next budget year.

“I think you’re just killing time right now,” Shaw told the councilwoman. “I’m going to call that out of order.”

Blackmon-Brace said council has repeatedly discussed giving the city’s workers a raise, only to have the matter either voted down or pushed off.

She views the stipend as an alternative method to provide employees with a reward. The stipend is estimated to cost about $51,000, which Blackmon-Brace would have recommended to be funded through the city’s reserve fund.

Shaw maintained that then was not the proper time to discuss any money-related rewards for employees. He also condemned the idea of approving such monies during the middle of a fiscal year.

“We said we’re going to bring it up at budget time,” Shaw said. “This is no way to run the city.”

The push for raises

Blackmon-Brace’s effort came a month after Councilwoman Sara Eddins motioned to give all city employees an immediate 4 percent raise. That motion died for lack of a second.

The last time city employees saw a pay increase was in 2010, when they received a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment.

At the March 13 meeting, employees Jackie Tinsley and Pindarius McGriff addressed council about raises during open session.

Tinsley, a member of the public works department, said he wanted to know why employees haven’t gotten a raise in three or four years. He added that while his pay remains the same, expenses continue to increase, according to official minutes from the March 13 meeting.

Immediately after Tuesday’s meeting, Blackmon-Brace said she wanted employees to receive the stipend because there’s a good chance they may not get a raise next year.

The $75-per-month bonus will help tremendously, said Blackmon-Brace, who also felt Shaw treated her unfairly.

“This is a total disrespect to me as a councilwoman,” Blackmon-Brace said. “I don’t think he would have called any other council person out of order.”

She later referred to the section in the city’s code or ordinances that explains rules for decorum and debate during council meetings.

According to the ordinance, any council member can make a motion. However, the mayor can call that person to order if he or she “is speaking or otherwise transgressing the rules of the council.”

“He thinks it’s his way or the highway,” Blackmon-Brace said Shaw. “I think he has a lot of growing up to do.”

Shaw responded to her charge.

“I’m grown up. I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” he said. “I’m not perfect, but I think I’m solid in my response to it.”

He said he has no animosity toward Blackmon-Brace and that it takes much more planning to implement stipends or raises.

“I don’t think I’ve ever mistreated any of them (council members), but (Blackmon-Brace) does not believe in process,” Shaw said. “It’s a process. You do it with planning.”

 

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at (803) 283-1152