Pay commission votes more cash for mayor, heads of departments

WAILUKU – Mayor Alan Arakawa will see a 19 percent jump in his salary from $114,030 to $135,696 annually beginning in July.

The Maui County Salary Commission voted Friday morning to increase the mayor’s pay and to up the salaries of county department heads by 15 percent. The commission also equalized the salaries for all county deputy department directors, setting all of their salaries at 90 percent of what their department director will earn.

The increases excluded the Police, Fire and Liquor Control departments as well as the new county auditor.

In total, the salary hikes will cost the county around $330,000 more next fiscal year, which begins July 1, when all of the raises take effect.

With the mayor’s salary set at $135,696, the position will be the highest-paid position in the Maui County government. The current salary for the mayor is lower than the police chief ($135,000) and deputy police chief ($128,250) and the fire chief ($126,900) and fire deputy ($120,450). This salary discrepancy was the key reason cited by commission members for increasing the mayor’s salary. Panel members also noted that the mayor has not received a raise since 2007.

Arakawa, who noted that he did not ask for a raise, said that he did not believe the pay hike was needed.

“Our economy is still recovering, and I felt it was not appropriate to ask for a raise, nor did I think it was necessary,” said Arakawa in an email. “Still, it is gratifying to know that the commission has confidence in the work we are doing. I know this decision was made with careful consideration on their part.”

Managing Director Keith Regan did not want to comment on the raise that he received but did express after the meeting that he was “glad” to see that the salary increases for the department deputies were done “across the board.” Regan’s salary will go up 15 percent from $109,900 to $126,385.

Regan briefly attended the Salary Commission meeting Friday morning in the Mayor’s Conference Room to provide testimony on department deputies’ salaries and noted that the deputies do about just as much work as their superiors.

“They are just as responsible for their departments,” he told the commission.

Noting that the salaries for department deputies varied by percentages when compared to their directors, Regan said after the meeting that he supported the concept of having the deputy’s salary based on a uniform percentage of their director’s pay.

Budget Director Sandy Baz said that the Salary Commission’s decision to increase pay rates was not totally unexpected and that “we will have to adjust the budget a little to make it work, but it should be fine.” Baz was not among the top county officials receiving pay hikes in this measure.

County Council Chairwoman Gladys Baisa reserved comment on the Salary Commission decision, saying that she was not at Friday’s meeting. Council Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Mike White did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

At the meeting, there were five members voting in favor of the mayor’s pay hike – Vice Chairman Stephen West and commissioners Edward Tamori, Agnes Terao-Guiala, May Fujiwara and Grace Shimabuku.

There was no call for members opposed to the measure. Commissioner Ralph Masuda did not join the others in voting to increase the mayor’s salary. He had said during discussions that when the mayor previously addressed the commission he did not ask for a raise.

Chairman Max Tsai presided over the meeting and did not cast a vote.

Commissioner Colleen Suyama was absent Friday, but at January’s meeting she expressed strong opposition to the pay hike for the mayor. She noted that the mayor did not ask for a raise and felt it would be difficult to give the mayor a raise when employees’ bargaining units in the county were not getting raises.

West, who made the motion for the raise, said that members of the public have come up to him to say that the mayor needed a raise and that the mayor is doing a good job. West noted that he did “take a little heat” for not attending the last two meetings, when the commission could not come to a decision on the salary issue.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Gary Murai did remind the commission that they were looking at the salaries for the positions and not the performance of the person currently in the job.

Fujiwara, who has been adamant about giving the mayor a raise, did not back down Friday but did concede a little when she voted for the 19 percent increase. She previously asked for a 20 percent hike, which commissioners did not approve.

Fujiwara maintained that the mayor at the helm of the county should be the highest paid.

Retired 2nd Circuit Judge Artemio C. Baxa, who is a Maui County deputy prosecutor, testified on behalf of himself before the commission and said that the mayor’s “salary should be higher than any department head at least by one dollar.”

Baxa said that when he was a member of the Maui County Charter Commission he was tempted to propose a provision in the charter that the mayor should be the highest paid employee. He decided against it, feeling that this was a task for the Salary Commission.

After passing the motion to increase the mayor’s salary, the commission easily and quickly voted for a 15 percent increase for the department directors, also noting that those positions have not received a pay increase for several years.

All six members present including West voted in favor of the motion. Tsai did not vote.

The commission agreed to leave out the Police, Fire and Liquor Control departments because those department heads recently received increases in pay. The salary for the county auditor also was left untouched; the commission last month set the salary for the new position at $100,000.

Salaries for council members were not on the agenda.

After the mayor, the department directors to receive the highest raw salaries will be the prosecuting attorney and the corporation counsel, both will make $127,059 each, up from their current $110,486 rate. The directors of Public Works and Environmental Management will each receive $124,315, up $16,215.

The lowest paid department head is the director of transportation at $107,410.

The commission then voted unanimously to set the deputy directors’ salaries at 90 percent of what their department directors will earn, keeping the percentages consistent for all departments, commissioners noted.

The highest paid deputies are in the prosecuting attorney and corporation counsel offices, where the first deputies will soon earn $114,353, up from $104,900, a 9 percent pay hike. The lowest paid deputy is the Transportation Department deputy at $96,669, up from $88,400 or a 9 percent pay hike. The Transportation Department deputy is the only department director or deputy making less than $100,000 a year.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at

* Maui County Salary Commission Chairman Max Tsai did not cast a vote Friday on three measures that increased the salaries of the mayor, some department heads and some department deputies.

Tsai said in an email that he was acting under the advice of the Corporation Counsel’s office that said he should only vote on a motion if the vote makes a difference in the outcome of the matter. His vote would not have made a difference in the three measures that passed.

Information in a story that ran on Saturday contained incorrect information and did not clarify why Tsai did not cast votes on the measures.

The Maui News apologizes for the error.