Panel is at odds on pay increase for the mayor

WAILUKU – The new Maui County auditor will be paid $100,000 annually, and the county’s Deputy Managing Director will have his yearly pay increased from $90,000 to $93,415.

Those were the only two actions taken Friday by the Maui County Salary Commission as its members struggled to decide on a pay raise for Mayor Alan Arakawa. Commissioners had discussed a mayoral pay raise at a meeting in December, but they could not come to a conclusion then.

The issue was revisited Friday, but again with no conclusion. Commissioners voted down a half-dozen motions regarding the mayor’s salary.

The matter is scheduled for review again at the commission’s next meeting Feb. 8 at the Mayor’s Conference Room at the Kalana O Maui building.

In deciding the pay for the new Maui County auditor position, commissioners looked at other Hawaii counties’ auditor salaries, with commission member Ralph Masuda saying that he was surprised at how high Kauai’s auditor’s annual salary was at $114,848.

Other commissioners noted that figure was higher than what Arakawa makes at $114,030.

Hawaii County’s auditor gets paid $94,284 and the City and County of Honolulu’s auditor receives $126,000, according to information provided to the commission by Maui County Council Chairwoman Gladys Baisa, as requested by the commission.

The new auditor position was established after residents voted in favor of a Maui County Charter amendment to establish the Office of the County Auditor in last year’s general election. Maui is the last county in the state to establish an auditor’s office.

Former Council Chairman Danny Mateo had asked the commission to establish a salary for the position. Beginning July 1, the auditing activities of the Office of Council Services will be transferred to the Office of the County Auditor.

Commission member Edward Tamori made a motion to set the salary at $100,000, with fellow member May Fujiwara seconding the motion.

All commissioners in attendance, Tamori, Fujiwara, Agnes Terao-Guiala, Colleen Suyama, Masuda and Grace Shimabuku voted in favor of the motion. Commission Vice Chairman Stephen West was absent. Commission Chairman Maxwell Tsai presided over the meeting but did not cast a vote.

Also by unanimous vote, commissioners approved a salary hike for David Ching, the county’s deputy managing director. His annual pay will go from $90,000 to $93,415, beginning fiscal 2014, which starts July 1.

Last year, Ching’s title changed from first assistant to the managing director to deputy managing director, which put his salary under the review of the Salary Commission.

Tsai said outside the meeting that Managing Director Keith Regan wanted the commission to consider the salary issue for Ching.

An informational sheet provided to the commission showed that many county deputy directors already make around or close to 95 percent of the salary of their respective department heads.

A state law requires a first deputy or first assistant to make no more than 95 percent of their department head’s salary.

Ching’s salary at its current level was only at 81.9 percent of Regan’s salary, which is $109,900 per year.

The commission discussed what Ching’s salary would be at the 95 percent mark, which would be $104,405. But some commissioners balked at the figure, noting that the deputy would be making more than some county directors such as those in the departments of Finance and Parks and Recreation.

But Tsai told commissioners that the managing directors oversee the county’s departments and the deputy managing director is the third man in charge in the county.

The commission instead raised Ching’s salary to 85 percent of Regan’s salary.

Suyama had to leave before the vote was taken.

Although commissioners deferred action on the matter, they spent much of the meeting discussing whether to raise Arakawa’s salary and by how much.

Motions for a 20 percent, 5 percent, 10 percent, 18.5 percent and 15 percent pay increase for the mayor all failed. Commissioners also turned down a motion to keep the mayor’s pay the same at $114,030.

Fujiwara was adamant that since the mayor oversees all of the county departments and department heads, he should be making more than any county employee.

Similar to last meeting, commissioners discussed how the mayor makes less than the police chief and his deputy as well as the fire chief and his deputy, whose salaries range from a low of $120,450 to a high of $135,000.

Fujiwara proposed raising the mayor’s salary by 20 percent, similar to what Tsai said heads of the police and fire departments received in the recent past.

Fujiwara’s proposal would raise Arakawa’s salary to $136,836, which other commissioners said was almost as high as the mayor of the City and County of Honolulu who makes at $136,428. But they noted he leads more city employees.

Tsai told the commission that the mayor’s position last received a pay raise five and a half years ago, and “I think it’s time.”

Suyama said she would vote no on any raise and would let the other commissioners decide it instead. At the beginning of Friday’s discussions, Suyama said that when the mayor came to give a presentation to the group at its December meeting Arakawa did not ask for a raise.

She said it would be hard to give the mayor a pay raise when employees’ bargaining units in the county were also not getting raises.

“My position hasn’t changed,” she said.

Suyama added that the commission had given heads of the Fire and Police departments raises to help with personnel issues and hiring, because those departments said that some high-level officers, though still outranked by the top brass, were making more than the heads of the department. That created a disincentive for those officers to seek the department’s highest positions.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at