It has been more than 20 years since the position of mayor has benefited from a salary increase.
But the city’s growth over the past two decades prompted council members to question the delegated amount for the mayor’s salary in a special meeting called last week.
City Attorney Larry Bryson told council members that the mayor’s salary increases are clearly defined by state law – adding that salary increases can only be changed during the last year of a mayoral term and must be approved by the first Monday in May.
However, the discussion of a pay rise for the post of mayor arrived a week late, being put on the agenda eight days after the deadline expired.
Rules established by the Kentucky Department of Local Government state, “The city council shall establish the remuneration of each city elected official no later than the first Monday in May of the year in which the officer is elected. remuneration of an elected official must not be modified after his election or during his term of office”.
Council members asked if the post of mayor was subject to increases in the cost of living, with Mayor of London Troy Rudder saying that over the years the mayor’s salary had been increased by $1,000 – now reaching $46,000. He added that the mayor’s salary had not been increased since Ken Smith’s administration. Prior to this, council members Kelly Greene and Daniel Carmack said “London is growing” and that the mayor’s salary should be increased to take account of the additional duties of a big city. Greene suggested $60,000, then asked if the board could list a starting salary that would increase over the years.
Councilman Daniel Carmack ended this discussion by saying, “This matter is moot. We can’t do that because the first Monday in May has already passed.
It also led to a discussion of term limits for the mayor and council members, which was also on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting. Councilor Danny Phelps said he agrees with term limits and has advocated for it in the past. After some discussion, council members agreed that the position of mayor should be limited to two terms (two four-year terms), and then after “sitting” one term, a candidate could run again for the same position.
Term limits for council members ranged from three to four terms, since council members are elected for two-year terms. Phelps asked if the terms of council members could be “staggered”, meaning that three of the six members could be elected one year and the other three the following year. Bryson said it would involve many legal challenges.
However, under the rules followed by the KDLG, it states: “The city may change the mode of election of city officers under the provisions of Division (A) by ordinance, except that no change may be made before 5 years from the last change.” It continues to state that the city will pay the costs of municipal elections if they are held “at a time other than that prescribed by law for elections in general.”
Bryson added that any changes to pay or terms must be made through an order, which must be read publicly twice. Once a second reading has been approved, the ordinance must be published in the local newspaper, taking effect on the date of publication.
Council members also discussed revising the 2021-2022 budget to allow for funds for a special advocate. City Clerk Marcy Berry said there was $18,388 in the legal fees fund. Council members reviewed the estimated fees to retain Robert Duncan as counsel between $10,000 and $20,000, stating that $10,000 could be drawn from this year’s legal fees fund and budgeting the remainder of the 2022-23 budget which begins on July 1 – if necessary . Berry added that the budget included a section for professional fees that could also be used to pay Duncan.
Councilor Phelps said he thought the expense was “a waste of money”, adding that Duncan answered all of his questions in the Zoom meeting at a previous special council meeting. Carmack asked Phelps how it could be a waste of money when Bryson had previously said he represented both the city council and the mayor and had a clear conflict of interest if council members hired legal action against the mayor.
Judd Weaver added that he hopes “we can get this resolved quickly without it going past June, or it not being as much as he (Duncan) has indicated.”
With that, the board members held a vote, with Phelps voting the only “no” to hire Duncan. Councilor Bobby Jo Parman abstained on the vote, which passed with the other four council members in favour.
Carmack brought up the subject of hiring a full-time municipal solicitor, whose interests would represent council. He said the council could hire a lawyer to work full-time for the council but maintain a private practice. Phelps responded that Bryson works full-time, with Carmack stating that a lawyer working solely for the city council would not create a conflict of interest with other entities that may involve the council. Councilman Greene said the contract could be drafted to reflect the City Attorney’s current salary, which is $1,400 per month, plus additional legal fees for special cases or situations.
After more discussion, council members tabled the topic to conduct more research on the matter.
Council members also voted to close streets around Downtown Park during the summer concert series, although those streets were not named.
In an executive session, council members discussed two properties listed as “property acquisition”. However, no follow-up was given to this discussion.