It didn't take long for Mayor Arnell Willis to take official action against Councilman Don Etherly's motion to give pay raises to three Helena West Helena District Court deputy clerks.
Early Friday morning, the Helena World received a sealed letter detailing the veto of the action taken during Tuesday's city council session.
The council continued discussions centered on the reportedly promised pay raises for district court clerks Shay Shields, Linda Hayden and Carlos Spencer who presented to the council a requested salary adjustment that was reportedly promised through a pay raise dating back to November 2012.
In a letter from the Mayor's Office, Willis stated that “the council continued to interfere with the mayor's ability to conduct the day-to-day operations of the city and due to the city's poor financial situation, the city cannot afford to give raises to any of its employees.”
The letter continues saying that it is unfair to the loyal and dedicated employees for these three individuals to be given raises at this time and that when the city's finances improve, Willis will recommend to the city council that raises be given to all city employees.
Tuesday night Etherly motioned that Shields receive a 53-cent pay raise, Hayden a 93-cent increase and Spencer a $1.14 pay raise. The motion passed on a 7 to 2 vote.
Shields, Hayden, and Spencer told the council that they signed a document stating a pay increase would become effective January 1 2013 and were receiving the increase from the date stipulated through February 1.
However, the county clerks later learned that the documentation they signed was not authorized by the proper signatures. Documents given to the council during the previous session showed that Marilyn Koontz, human resource officer, authorized the raise. The council requested that Deon Carter, the clerks' immediate supervisor, be present at Tuesday's meeting to answer some questions.
“Have you all been told that the raises could not be authorized without the mayor's signature?” questioned council member Monica Davis. Carter clarified that the form was submitted but never brought back. Carter stated that she was unaware of whether or not they received a pay raise. Crockett asked how Carter decided to request the raises. Carter confirmed that the clerks asked her for one and added that it was protocol to submit the request form to the mayor and he returns it. “I think we should give them their money back, I mean it's kind of wrong to take something away when it was given to them,” commented councilman Christopher Franklin. Carter stated that during the department head meeting Willis stated that no one is getting a raise.
“I never saw their checks,” added Carter.
Etherly asked if there is a written policy regarding pay raise requests. “The only time, on the rarest conditions, they have to go through a performance evaluation process,” said Willis. Crockett continued to attempt to confirm whether or not there was something in writing that stated whether or not the raises were given, stating that the body is looking for a “paper trail.” “We could've avoided all this confusion if we had something in writing,” added Crockett. According to the documentation presented to the council, the clerks received higher amounts of money compared to their previous checks written before Jan. 1.
Page 2 of 2 - “The mayor should follow policy with all people, not just some,” stated Franklin.
Crockett questioned why the clerk's overtime hours were not shown on their pay stubs, so as to determine whether or not the extra cash was in fact due to a pay increase.
“There is no documentation showing what they received as overtime or what they are making hourly.” She stated.
According to City Clerk Sandi Ramsey the accounting system is set up as a salary rate, not hourly.