Commission Set to Discuss Controversy Over City Raises

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February 10, 2006
City Administrator Fred Russell says it may have been a misunderstanding.

“Once again if I made a mistake, we need to correct that mistake,” Russell said.

Thursday local radio host Ryan B. obtained financial documents he says show Mr. Russell used taxpayer money to give pay raises to certain elected officials without the commission’s approval.

“Why would I do something like that when the intent and my total intent all along was to give it to everybody, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Russell said.

Russell says when commissioners approved a raise for all city employees, he assumed all elected officials got one, too. But News 12 obtained documents today that show only six elected employees were actually getting a raise. Russell says there must have been a hold up in the human resources department.

Brenda Byrd Pelaez is director of human resources. She says when Mr. Russell asked her to give raises to elected officials, she questioned if it was legal since their salaries are set by state law. Russell sent her an email saying, “Yes, do it.” When she did not, she claims Mr. Russell got someone on her staff to sign off on the raises without her knowledge.

“As director I am held ultimately accountable on all things that are processed through the system, so I would like to be aware of all types of activities,” Brenda said.

“We will get it all sorted out. There is some confusion and we have not resolved it yet, but I’m sure we will,” said Mayor Deke Copenhaver.

Ms. Pelaez says she won’t sign off on any more raises for elected officials until she gets a legal opinion.

“I have instructed my staff that if you now get a directive from administration, or from a commissioner, it would be nice if you would let me know about that directive,” Brenda said.