Updated at 3 p.m. Tuesday:
The Melrose Appropriations Committee passed a motion on Mayor Rob Dolan's request for a 26 percent pay raise during their meeting Monday night at City Hall.
If approved by the aldermen at their meeting on Monday, Feb. 4, Dolan, who currently earns a salary of $99,896, will see his annual pay increase to $125,000 starting in January 2014.
After hearing from nearly two dozen Melrosians—nearly all of whom supported Dolan's proposed pay raise—and then deliberating the merits of the proposal, the committee passed the motion 8-3. Committee Chairman Donald Conn, Jr. and members Jaclyn Bird and Monica Medeiros opposed Dolan's proposal.
In a Dec. 26 letter to the Melrose Board of Aldermen, Dolan requested a pay increase from $99,896 to $125,000. In a Jan. 15 letter to Aldermen, the mayor wrote, "I respectfully request that this Honorable Board amend Melrose Revised Ordinances, Chapter 48-1. Mayor. Part A. Salary, to read as follows: Effective January 1, 2014, the salary for the position of Mayor shall be $125,000 per annum."
Residents Tackle Mayor's Raise
The Aldermanic Chamber was filled to capacity, largely with Melrosians in favor of the mayoral salary increase proposed by Dolan. While several residents raised the issue of there needing to be parity and equitable pay for the mayor of Melrose, the majority tended to focus on Dolan's performance as the chief executive of the city.
Resident Patricia Faro, speaking for the first time at a City Hall session, praised Dolan for his fiscally responsible approach to running the city, building sports facilities and his commitment to education, to name a few things. Faro added how she always tells people to move to Melrose because "we have the best mayor" and losing him to Boston or Washington would be a great loss to the community.
Melrosian Suzy Groden said Dolan has worked tirelessly for the past decade and to refuse him the pay raise would reflect poorly on the community.
While the majority of residents backed the pay raise either for Dolan's achievements or the fact that Melrose ranks near the bottom in overall compensation based on recent data compiled by the city's Human Resources Department, there were a few locals who opposed the proposal.
Melrosian Devan Manchester spoke to Dolan's "proven track record of 12 years" and "has been working hard and doing a fantastic job" but the city "simply can't afford it right now."
Resident Ted Kennedy concurred with the points raised by Manchester, adding that if he were to ask his boss for a 25 cent raise he'd say "there's the door," and for Dolan to request a 26 percent raise is "almost an insult to all of us."
Committee member Ronald Seaboyer discussed the overwhelming support people showed, both in person during the meeting and via email, for Dolan, saying, "I can't help but support this (proposed raise)."
Committee member Gail Infurna said the mayor should not be making a salary that is less than 14 department heads that report directly to him. Meanwhile, fellow committee member Mary Beth McAteer-Margolis gave an emotional backing of Dolan for going above and beyond the call of duty by helping flood victims in the early morning hours during past storms.
Bird provided an explanation as to why she couldn't support the mayor's raise.
"...Despite all the personal testimony tonight that was extremely personal in nature...this is not a personal issue; this is a personnel issue," Bird said. "...It's simply not the role of the Board of Aldermen, a legislative body, to give out a 26 percent raise to an elected incumbent who has more than two years left in his term. This is not the appropriate way to address this issue and this is not following the right process."
Small incremental raises over the next two years or a larger raise following the 2016 election would have been more appropriate ways to handle the issue, according to Bird, and since neither were considered she voted against the proposed raise.
Meanwhile, Medeiros explained that she wanted to discuss the city's mayoral compensation in greater detail in more than just one committee meeting to arrive at an equitable solution.
Conn said he considered some of the arguments put forward by others, including one that the city should be ashamed of itself for paying its mayor a lower compensation than most other communities.
"I guess I'm out of step with everybody because the mayoral salary of $99,896 didn't make me ashamed or embarassed," Conn said. "...The last thing I ever expected was the mayoral salary to be set on a referendum on the proponents of Mayor Dolan. Mayor it is a testament to you that all these people support you. I'm not going to vote for $125,000 salary because I think it is too high, and I don't think it is too high having anything to do with you as a person or as the mayor."