‘The mayor used staff as a smokescreen for his own decision'
Councillors are going ahead with a closed-door meeting to discuss Mayor Bob Bratina's handling of his aide's $30,000 raise — despite a statement from the mayor asking councillors to move on from this “unfortunate distraction.”
In the face of criticism about his explanation of Peggy Chapman's salary boost, Bratina issued the statement Friday morning attempting to clarify his position.
“Wednesday, in an interview I made comments regarding the salary adjustment given my Chief of Staff that left the impression that the initiative originated in the Human Resources Dept. This was not the case,” it read. “I regret any negative inference that may have been created. The issue of salary review for this office is, of course, my responsibility as mayor.”
However, councillors say the mayor's statement isn't enough to deter them from pursuing the closed-door meeting to discuss whether Bratina broke council's code of conduct when he said the city's human resources staff was the impetus behind the raise.
“At the end of the day, the mayor used staff as a smokescreen for his own decision. That's not only not leadership, but that is, in fact, not taking responsibility for your own actions,” said Councillor Terry Whitehead. “I don't think anyone on this council believes that those comments — misleading the general public and the media — were unintentional.”
Bratina said this week that Chapman's salary will climb from $90,000 to $120,000 in 2012. Initially — on two separate occasions — Bratina said the pay hike was initiated by HR staff. However, city staffers later revealed in private emails and closed-door meetings that it was the mayor who triggered the compensation review and later determined Chapman's new salary.
In the statement, Bratina refers to a clarification he issued to correct the record. That document was an email sent only to councillors, city manager Chris Murray, and HR chief Helen Hale Tomasik, obtained by The Spectator.
Councillors say they still haven't had a satisfactory explanation from the mayor and hope to give him the opportunity to explain at Tuesday's meeting. Councillors spent two hours behind closed doors Thursday afternoon dissecting the issue, which Bratina did not attend. They discussed asking Bratina for a formal apology to HR staff, or issuing a censure against the mayor.
“The intent of council was to receive an apology on behalf of the city's human resources department. But that hasn't occurred,” said Councillor Sam Merulla.