Maui County Salary Commission members were undecided Friday about whether to give pay raises to the mayor and managing director, who respectively earn $114,030 and $109,900 per year.
The panel took two votes. One would have kept the compensation unchanged, but that motion received only three votes in favor, from commission members Colleen Suyama, Grace Shimabuku and Agnes Terao-Guiala.
Five votes were needed for action.
A second motion to raise the mayor's salary 5 percent and the managing director's pay by 4 percent also failed. That vote drew two votes in favor, from commissioners Terao-Guiala and Edward Tamori.
Four of the commission's nine members were absent from Friday's meeting. They were Stephen West, May Fujiwara, Ralph Masuda and Johanna Amorin. (Amorin submitted her resignation from the commission Thursday.) Commission Chairman Maxwell Tsai presided during the meeting, but he did not cast a vote on either motion.
Mayor Alan Arakawa addressed the commission before the votes, advising them to be cautious about raising director and deputy director salaries before the county enters into collective bargaining negotiations with public employee unions.
Arakawa did not seek a pay raise, although he discussed the broad responsibilities of the mayor in managing the county.
Managing Director Keith Regan said that the mayor is accountable and responsible for overseeing more than a dozen departments.
While in other jurisdictions in the United States mayors are "purely ceremonial" and have no authority, mayors in Hawaii serve as chief executives of county governments and are deeply involved in leading and overseeing their department heads and employees, Regan said.
"We manage all of the major issues that come before the county," Arakawa said.
Reports presented to commission members showed that the mayor earns less annually than the chiefs of the police and fire departments and their deputies. The police chief makes $135,000 per year, and his deputy earns $128,250. The fire chief's annual compensation is $126,900, and his deputy makes $120,450.
A 5 percent raise for the mayor would have put his annual salary at a little more than $119,700, and a 4 percent increase would have hiked the managing director's position to nearly $114,300 annually. Even with those raises, the mayor and managing director would earn less than the police and fire chiefs.
Tsai said he was "shocked" that the mayor earns less than the police and fire chiefs. The police chief and deputy received pay raises as of July 1, 2010. And the fire chief and deputy were given raises to the current levels as of Sept. 16, 2011. The police and fire chiefs' compensation was hiked after police officers and firefighters received across-the-board pay raises through July 2010, records show.
Other county employees have not received pay increases since July 1, 2008, and since March 1, 2009, for blue-collar workers in the United Public Workers' Bargaining Unit 1.
Tsai said he was concerned that the mayor and managing director positions have not received an increase in pay since Jan. 1, 2008. He said the economy has improved recently for Maui County and the state, and he judged the county has the resources to fairly compensate the county's top executives.
"We do have the money to afford this," he said.
Tsai pointed out that the mayor of Kauai County earns slightly more, $114,490, than Maui's mayor, although Kauai's chief executive oversees a county workforce of 1,200 while Maui County's number of employees is approximately 2,600, or more than double.
By comparison, the Hawaii County mayor earns $109,152 and oversees 2,950 employees. And, the mayor of the City and County of Honolulu makes $136,428 and leads a city workforce of 12,000.
The commission deferred the matter of pay raises for the mayor and managing director until the panel's next meeting on Jan. 11.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.