St. C. council gets heated

Council and administration at odds over employee raises

T-L Photos/GAGE VOTA St. Clairsville Council President Jim Velas, from left, Service Director Jeremy Greenwood, Mayor Kathryn Thalman and Law Director Joe Vavra discuss the building tension at a Monday council meeting.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Tensions rose during Monday’s City Council meeting.

St. Clairsville City Council met in regular session Monday evening and discussed passing a new ordinance that would provide a 3 percent raise for all non-elected and non-union city employees.

Law Director Joe Vavra held the proposed ordinance’s first reading. The measure was immediately met with criticism by Councilwoman Holly West.

“I just want it to be known that I don’t agree with it, I think that they need more,” West said while responding to the proposed ordinance.

Councilwoman Kristi Lipscomb questioned if the proposed ordinance applied to four employees who recently received a raise. Lipscomb said those four employees’ raises were not approved by council, while Mayor Kathryn Thalman said the previous law director told the administration that they could authorize a raise for their staff members.

Councilman Mike Smith asked Vavra if the names of the four employees who already received raises could be listed in the ordinance as having already received a pay hike.

Service Director Jeremy Greenwood interjected that he believes that wouldn’t be fair because those four employees didn’t ask for the raise they received.

“If you don’t want to give a raise to somebody don’t give a raise to me, because I’m the one that did it,” Greenwood told Smith since he gave raises to the four individuals.

Councilwoman Terra Butler asked Thalman what percent of their earnings those four employees received. Greenwood answered with a dollar amount, which led Butler to reply: “Not dollars, percentage. One was at least 4 1/2 percent, which is even more than we are approving tonight. So that person should be excluded from that 3% because they are already above what we’re giving other people.”

Greenwood replied, “If you want to punish someone for it, punish me because I’m the one that did it.”

Thalman added, “And I approved it, because we were told we could.”

Lipscomb responded to Thalman, saying, “I do think that you were told you could and I understand that, but you’re not allowed and Joe is saying you’re not allowed to do that when it’s already been done.”

Thalman said approval of raises for those four individuals was already water under the bridge. Greenwood repeated his sentiment that he believes those employees didn’t have a choice and if someone should not receive a raise it should be him because he’s the one that gave those four their raises.

Smith replied to Greenwood, saying he did not agree that was how the situation should be handled.

“I’m not saying to punish you or to punish them,” Smith began.

Greenwood interrupted, saying, “Yes you are, because some of them weren’t even that much, like the one was a dollar an hour.”

Butler spoke up again.

“That’s why I’m asking for a percentage, so we can tell what they get paid and how many hours.”

Smith suggested that council table the ordinance until its language can be amended. Lipscomb said she believes that if the raise received wasn’t at least 3 percent that it should be brought up to 3 percent.

Thalman said, “We did what we were told we were allowed to do, but I think everybody should be at the same starting line.”

“But they’re not because they already got a raise when other people didn’t, so we’re already not at the same starting line,” Lipscomb said.

“I disagree, it’s a very small raise,” Thalman said. “I think it’s something that everybody deserves.”

Greenwood then said, “You can’t change what is already done.”

Thalman said the raises for the four individuals were deserved.

“People tell me, ‘You’re doing a good job as mayor.’ It’s not me, it’s this team and I believe that they deserve a bump in their pay.”

Lipscomb and Thalman then proceeded to get into a heated argument, which led to Thalman leaving the meeting before it was adjourned.

“There are certain hills worth dying on and this is it, I quit,” Thalman said as she left. “I’m not asking that much. Again, I think for what these people do it’s not a lot.”

Council decided to table the ordinance. Council will meet again at 7 p.m. May 6 at the municipal building.


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