Molina wants reconsideration of raises for council staff OK’d at first meeting

Pay increases not available for public review; complaints voiced from others

County Council Member Mike Molina, presiding over a committee meeting Wednesday in Council Chambers, is requesting that the council revisit salary increases approved for council staffers at the panel’s first meeting Jan. 2 because the increases were not available for public review and because of complaints from other county workers. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

County Council Member Mike Molina is requesting that the council revisit salary increases approved for council staffers at the panel’s first meeting Jan. 2 because the increases were not available for public review and because of complaints from other county workers.

“Even though I supported Resolution 19-10, Draft 1, I realized after the fact the salary increases were not made available to the public prior to the meeting and as a result did not have the opportunity to testify,” he said in a news release Wednesday. “In an era of transparency and open government, it’s only fair that the public have the opportunity to testify on the proposed pay increases.”

He noted that the agenda for the meeting included the same level of pay for Council Services staff as the previous two-year period but that an amendment was offered during the meeting increasing the salaries of various staff members.

Council Chairwoman Kelly King, who supported the increases during the meeting, called Molina’s request “unfortunate” and said that reneging on salary increases now may result in legal challenges.

In a phone interview Thursday, she said that she was following the practice of previous council chairs and the advice of former council Chairman Mike White, who advised listing only step-level designations and not dollar amounts of salaries.

Council Chairwoman Kelly King called Molina’s request “unfortunate” and said reneging on salary increases could result in legal issues.

The goal behind the increases was to try “to get everything equal and fair” based on experience, education and capabilities, King said. She noted that council staffers have not received a raise since 2012 and suggested at the Jan. 2 meeting that staffers may leave Council Services without the pay hikes.

King said she had not seen Molina’s resolution but said that it would have to be reviewed by attorneys. She also said she doesn’t feel it would have the support of most of the council members.

“I can’t see this passing,” King said. “I don’t see the council going back and making a decision.”

Molina said Wednesday that he transmitted his proposed resolution to the Office of the County Clerk for consideration by King to be placed on the Feb. 1 meeting agenda.

At the Jan. 2 meeting, some council members expressed concern about the raises, noting six new members on the council who have not worked extensively with the staff they are giving raises to. As he said in the meeting, Molina recommended Wednesday that the salary increases be reviewed and determined during the county budget deliberations, when all staff members’ salaries are discussed.

Molina said he has received “numerous calls” from county employees who have not received step increases for more than six years. He said those step increases were negotiated and included in union contracts but have not been funded by the county.

“It’s not fair to county employees to tell them we don’t have the money to give you step increases but we can do it for our own council staff,” said Molina. “What kind of message does this send to our county employees?”

He made clear that his resolution was not meant to disparage Council Services workers, who are “a very hardworking, dedicated group of employees.”

“The intention of my proposed resolution is to make the playing field fair and equitable for all employees and is no way a reflection on Council Services’ job performance,” Molina said.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.

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