Garland council cuts mayor's tenfold pay raise in half

Thursday , August 28, 2014 - 2:59 PM

GARLAND — Small-town America quarreled with itself in public here Wednesday night about the mayor’s pay raise.

The arguments lobbed back and forth while Mayor Scott Coleman looked on stoically at the city council meeting. He suggested only that, compared with other towns in Utah the size of Garland, the $100 a month paid the mayor since 2007 was well below average.

Three council members said they recalled the mayor’s raise to $1,000 a month being specifically approved publicly during the city’s budget hearings in June. The other two said it wasn’t.

And that’s how the voting went all night.

The vote was always effectively 3-2, on six different motions regarding the mayor’s pay raise, ranging from cutting him back to $100 a month, to shaving the raise to $800 a month. Councilmen Todd Miller, Kenny Smoot and J.R.Thompson typically aligned with some kind of raise, while Councilmen Kirt McKee and Kendall Kowallis did not. They finally agreed after an hour and a half on a $500-a-month salary, effective Sept. 1.

But not before impassioned speakers rose during the public hearing.

The mayor’s pay raise was a symbolic lightning rod for a town wanting to grow, but not a lot; the future versus the past while staying the same but also wanting more. That was the scale of things for this town of 2,000-plus with only seven paid positions. Eight speakers railed against the raise, while two stood for it, and one urged caution in a standing-room-only council chamber.

“You’ve taken a lot of heat for this,” former council member Bill Bishop told the mayor and council. “And you’re great men. But this has become a black eye.”

Matt Cutler lamented the loss of a major industrial firm a few years ago that chose to locate in a nearby city instead of Garland.

“I’m sorry, but things do revolve around money ... we’re a bedroom community, but we can still add to the tax base, can’t we? What do we want to be in the future?”

“One of you said something about voting your conscience,” Cindy Munns noted. “I just wonder if you’re going to vote based on what we’ve said here, on what the public wants.”

“Where’s the spirit of volunteerism? Why do we have to pay someone to mow the cemetery lawn?” asked one speaker

“Currently and forever, we are the highest taxed city in the county,” said another.

Two former Garland mayors chastised Coleman, who took office in January, for asking for the raise when he knew last fall when he ran for office what the pay was, as well as the demands.

“Absurd,” former Mayor Arlin Bennett called the raise. “I think we should be looking at cutting back instead.”

“If the mayor’s not worth paying minimum wage, then what does that say about the judgment of the people that elected him?” asked Mike Butler. “An organism either grows or it dies. It seems like Garland’s going nowhere.”

Kowallis mentioned minimum wage in finally voting for the $500 a month for the mayor. Based on the 15 hours a week the mayor averages, Kowallis calculated that would be about $450 a month.

And Coleman agreed to pay back the $1,000 a month he was paid in July and August.

Twenty extra folding chairs were brought out to accommodate the overflow crowd of 50-plus on hand for the salary showdown.

Contact reporter Tim Gurrister at 801-625-4238 or tgurrister@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @tgurrister

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