Franklin County’s elected leaders, including two commissioners, and 109 nonunion employees will get 6 percent raises following an unusually testy special Election Day meeting.
And most of the county’s union employees have agreed to similar raises.
The commission voted 2-1 to raise the salaries for the posts held by commissioners Brad Peck and Bob Koch, each of whom faced re-election challenges in Tuesday’s election. The decision will raise the salary from $89,300 to $94,325 on Jan. 1, after new terms begin.
Peck and Koch voted in favor. Chair Rick Miller, who advocated a smaller amount, opposed it.
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Miller proposed raising commissioners’ salaries by $2,000 to about $91,000, and lowering the salary for his seat when the next term begins in 2019.
Tuesday’s vote puts the pay for Peck and Koch’s seats on par with Miller’s already higher salary. Miller is paid $94,325 because of a combination of the staggered elections for the commission positions and the past practice of awarding cost-of-living adjustments to commissioners.
The new salaries put all three commissioners on the same footing and will be in effect through 2020.
Tuesday’s last-minute meeting was called after officials realized the authority to pay commissioners serving in the seats now held by Peck and Koch would expire Jan. 1 if it wasn’t reauthorized before to the election. Under Washington law, new salaries can’t take effect until the next term. The rule prevents elected officials from awarding themselves mid-term raises.
If the commission had not taken action Tuesday, the winners of Tuesday’s races between incumbent Peck and challenger Matt Beaton, and between incumbent Koch and challenger Rocky Mullen, would have faced drastic pay cuts on Jan. 1.
Their salaries would have defaulted to Washington’s minimum pay for a commissioner in a county the size of Franklin: $14,900 per year.
Raising pay on election day is unreal
Matt Beaton, Franklin County Auditor, candidate for commissioner
The last-minute salary vote did not sit well with Beaton, currently Franklin County’s elected auditor. He and Peck have tangled during the campaign season and frayed nerves were on display Tuesday.
Beaton interrupted the meeting several times to accuse the commission of acting without transparency.
He first urged the commission not to pass any resolution to raise salaries because the information was not first made available to the public. Resolutions traditionally are published for public review before passage, which did not happen in this case.
Waiting until the last possible moment to act on salaries was highly unusual, Beaton said.
“Raising pay on election day is unreal,” he said.
Later, he complained that salary increases should have occurred in the spring, before candidates filed to run for public office. All candidates pay a filing fee equal to 1 percent of the salary of the office they seek. For Beaton and the other three candidates running for Franklin County Commissioner, that was $893.
Beaton said the candidates would have to pay more, about an additional $50, to reflect the salaries taking effect on Jan. 1. But that was wrong. The filing fee is based on the current year’s salary, not future ones.
Peck didn’t let the mistake go without comment.
“It’s based on this year’s pay. As auditor, I would expect you to know that,” he told his challenger.
It’s based on this year’s pay. As auditor, I would expect you to know that
Brad Peck, Franklin County Commissioner
Beaton interrupted the meeting again to acknowledge his error, then left the room. When the meeting recessed, he was standing outside his own office across the corridor, welcoming voters coming to the courthouse for help with their ballots.
The commission also awarded a series of raises totaling 6 percent to 109 employees who are not represented by unions, and to six elected officials such as the coroner, auditor, clerk and assessor.
It previously negotiated raises totaling 6 percent to all but one of the employee groups represented by unions.
The raises include a 2 percent increase retroactive to Sept. 1, and additional 2 percent increases on Jan. 1, 2017, and Jan. 1, 2018.
The 56 employees represented by the Courthouse Union have not approved the same contract offer.
Employees have not had cost-of-living adjustments in recent years, although the county helped to offset the cost of a sharp increase in employee health insurance premiums in 2014.
Franklin County salaries have lagged notoriously behind those of other agencies and the county has lost several key workers over compensation. Commissioners said elevating salaries and ensuring parity between union and nonunion workers is a priority as they work through the 2017 budget.
Franklin County Administrator Keith Johnson said the financial impact of the raises approved Tuesday will be $45,000 in 2016 and $270,000 in 2017.
The increases are financed through higher-than-expected revenue and improved financial reporting associated with the county’s new ONESolution anti-fraud software.