Monday, September 14, 2009

Avery Takes Over Reins as Commission Finishes Up on Pay Cuts

Vote is close on restoring sheriff's pay level....

Posted By on Mon, Sep 14, 2009 at 6:51 PM

County commission chair Joyce Avery takes oath from Criminal Court Judge John Fowlkes
  • JB
  • County commission chair Joyce Avery takes oath from Criminal Court Judge John Fowlkes
There was a changing of the guard at the Shelby County Commission on Monday — and a changing of commissioners’ pay grade, as well.

Joyce Avery, a second-term Republican from Arlington, assumed the chairmanship from outgoing chair Deidre Malone, a Democrat, and so felicitous and graceful was the transition that one could almost forget the modest acrimony that may have lingered from Malone’s failed attempt back in July to get herself elected to a second consecutive term as chairman.

That effort was turned back when two Democrats, Steve Mulroy and current chairman pro temp Sidney Chism, voted for Avery — and for the gentlemen’s tradition of rotating chairmanships by person and by party.

There were no notable apostasies on Monday, as the commission, though hearing misgivings here and there, voted 12-1 for a controversial 5 percent pay reduction in commissoners’ pay, from $30,000 annually to $28,500. That was the required third reading for the proposal, which came out of nowhere two weeks ago and snowballed into its first approval.

Not that the feeling was unanimous. Irate Democrat Sidney Chism denounced it all as "showboating," and several other commissioners expressed reservations, Malone confessing she was “not sure it’s the right thing to do” and both Mulroy and fellow Democrat Matt Kuhn expressing concern that the vote might contribute to the devaluing of the public sector. And Democrat Henri Brooks renewed her appeal of last Wednesday’s committee session for the idea of “restructuring” the commission, making its positions full-time and compensating them in kind.

But in the end only Chism actually cast a vote against the commissioners’ pay cuts. The others either acquiesced in the majority sentiment or, like Republican Commissioner George Flinn, continued to see the self-abnegation as “leadership” in a time of general economic woe. City charter provisions now oblige the city council to accept the same compensation level as the commission.

The commission’s unanimity broke down somewhat on a subsequent vote to apply an equivalent 5 percent pay cut to the sales of the sheriff and county mayor, with five commissioners — Democrats Kuhn and Mulroy and Republicans Mike Carpenter, Mike Ritz, and Avery voting to restore Sheriff Mark Luttrell to his current salary of almost $118,000 but losing out to a majority willing to see the sheriff’s position reduced by the same proportion as the commisisoners’, to $115,000.

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