PEPPER PIKE — City Council voted 4-2 to raise the annual salary for the director of public safety by $10,000, making it $27,500.

The action increases Mayor Richard Bain’s take home pay to $82,500 plus benefits because he serves in both positions.

Councilmen Richard Leskovec, Manohar Daga and Tony Gentile and Vice Mayor Bob Freed voted for the salary increase while Councilmen Scott Newell and Jim Juliano voted against it during the Feb. 20 meeting. The pay increase is retroactive to Jan. 1, according to the ordinance.

The mayor’s salary has been $55,000 since Mayor Bain started this term in 2016 after being re-elected to the office. The city charter prohibits in-term raises for all elected positions.

The mayor term expires at the end of this year and there is no indication who will be running for the office during the general election.

In 2015, council created the position of director of public safety at an annual salary of $10,000 and increased the pay to $17,500 in 2017. Mayor Bain has appointed himself to the safety director position every year since the position was created.

Mr. Newell asked Finance Director Joe Brodzinski to prepare figures to show how the mayor’s take home pay has changed over time.

In addition to the $55,000 salary for the elected office, the mayor gets $17,200 in medical insurance. He also receives $9,350 in benefits that include Medicare, workers’ compensation and the Public Employees Retirement System. The public safety director position also offers $4,675 in compensation for benefits, according to Mr. Brodzinski.

Councilman Jim LeMay was not present, and Mr. Newell asked council to table the vote on the safety director’s salary hike until all members were present due to the importance of the matter. No council members offered to second Mr. Newell’s motion to table the ordinance, so council moved forward with discussion on the ordinance.

“This was well notified before the meeting to all members of council,” Mr. Freed said. “Everybody has had notice of this and had an equal opportunity to come to the council meeting and vote on this issue.”

Mr. Newell asked why raising the director of public safety’s salary was an urgent matter. Mr. Freed stated that this salary increase is a year overdue, since council did not review the salary in 2018.

Mr. Daga stated that he did not want to delay the vote, explaining that council should have voted on this matter following the executive session on Feb. 16. In the public session of the Feb. 16 meeting, council discussed how much public service positions, including the mayor and council members, should be compensated for their devotion of time and effort to Pepper Pike.

Mr. Leskovec stated that this disagreement on compensation is one of the “strangest” topics that council has debated during his tenure.

“This issue has philosophical differences, it’s like arguing religion,” he said. “You’re not going to reconcile because part of the argument is how much time should be given versus how much time should be compensated, and we all have our own opinions on that.”

Mr. Gentile stated that Pepper Pike’s achievements should be a more important consideration for raising mayoral compensation than the amount of time spent on the job.

“I think of the mayor as the CEO of the Pepper Pike organization. I don’t think time is the most relevant factor in deciding what compensation should be,” Mr. Gentile said. “I think it’s the effectiveness, the achievements and the overall performance and health of the organization that should be the driving factor for the compensation.”

Although the salary hike is retroactive to Jan. 1, the ordinance will not go into effect until 30 days after passage.

“I want to thank council for considering the public safety compensation,” Mayor Bain said. “I hope we can put behind us any disagreements between council members about issues so we can continue to work in a positive way going forward.”

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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