Without any discussion in open meeting Monday, city council emerged from a closed executive session to grant hourly raises to part-time police, full-time city employees, a seasonal employee, and a $5,000 annual raise to police chief Bruce Burke.
The motion came immediately after an executive session requested by Burke to discuss nonelected personnel matters. Such sessions are typically conducted to protect the privacy of an individual.
After the 15-minute session, council members unanimously approved a motion granting Burke’s $5,000 raise that also included setting pay for part-time police at $13/hr, giving a $.75/hr raise to five full-time employees, and a $.50/hr raise to a seasonal employee who works at the pool.
Council president Megan Galucci said after the meeting that the hourly raises were routine.
“It was just the annual raises that we give every year,” she said. “We’ve always discussed raises in executive session since it’s nonelected personnel. We budgeted for them at the last budget session.”
Burke hadn’t received a raise “in over six years,” Galucci said.
“When we looked up (comparable salaries), he is well under the area comps for that position.”
Burke’s salary had been $51,000; with the raise, effective with the next payroll, it will be $56,000.
Questioned further, Galucci confirmed that these were regular annual raises that were not based on performance.
The executive session appears to have been illegal, according to Kansas Press Association legal counsel Max Kautsch, because of the scope of raises granted that were apparently discussed in closed session.
Kautsch said it was proper for the council and Burke to enter an executive session for nonelected personnel, but that discussion and any action resulting from it should have been limited to Burke.
“Ancillary things shouldn’t have been discussed,” Kautsch said. “It’s not for groups. The whole reason is to protect the privacy of an individual. There’s not reasonable expectation of privacy when you’re talking about a group, and you’re not talking about performance. Talking about a global decision about an already budgeted expense is not a reason for an executive session.”
Kautsch said taxpayers have a right to hear in open session what council members say and decide about routine pay raises for groups of employees, as they aren’t discussing individuals or their performance.