Receiver intends to sue Chester elected officials’ salaries
Chester’s receiver intends to file an application for a mandamus order with the Commonwealth Court after town officials increased their salaries by $ 10,000 each.
“This is actually a big problem in the work that we are trying to do, especially in trying to get the cooperation and buy-in from other entities that are going to be asked to give up something”, Vijay Kapoor, head of office of the escrow office. , noted.
City officials questioned the money the state is injecting into the receiver’s office, saying the city could use the money to improve its situation.
On April 13, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf declared a budget emergency in Chester under Bill 47, citing the impact of the coronavirus and with state officials worried the state would run out of cash by here late 2020. In June 2020, Michael T. Doweary was appointed receiver to create and implement a plan to lift Chester out of financial distress. Commonwealth Court has extended the receiver’s contract for an additional two years until December 31, 2023.
On Tuesday, Kapoor made a presentation to the City’s Financial Recovery Advisory Committee that addressed the receiver’s concerns about the salary increase for city officials.
Prior to the arrival of the receiver, city council increased the mayor’s salary from $ 41,000 to $ 75,000 and the salaries of city council and comptroller from $ 35,000 each to $ 60,000.
During the December 2020 budget negotiations, the collector’s office and city officials agreed to reduce the mayor’s salary to $ 65,000 and the salaries of the city council and comptroller to $ 50,000 each.
According to Kapoor’s presentation, the Receiver, Kapoor, the Receiver’s Finance Officer, Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland and Chester City Councilor Will Morgan had negotiations as part of the 2022 budget process.
On December 29, city council approved the reinstatement of $ 10,000 each in the salaries of the mayor, city council and comptroller.
The receiver said this act violated the amended recovery plan approved by the court. Citing section 709 (a) of Bill 47, Kapoor said the receiver can apply to Commonwealth court for a summons of mandamus to ensure compliance and that the court has 14 days from the date of filing to act. .
The request has not yet been filed. Part of the problem is that matters relating to the escrow were handled by Commonwealth Court Judge Andrew Crompton. Having lost his re-election, Crompton left the bench on January 3. These questions have not yet been assigned to another Commonwealth Court judge.
The mayor of Chester said the salary agreement between the receiver and the city was for a period of 12 months.
“Our deal for… was for one year,” Kirkland said. “It was our understanding as mayor and council. “
He pointed out that they had voluntarily waived this part of their salary.
“No one asked or forced or was forced to give up $ 10,000 of our salary,” Kirkland said, adding that some employees, including the city’s chief of staff, the police commissioner , the lawyer, the fire marshal and the CFO, gave up more than that. “We have voluntarily given up our salaries to help in this community. “
The mayor wonders about the salaries of the Collector, his team and his consultants.
“Our dollars are common knowledge,” Kirkland said. “We’ve all exposed them. We haven’t yet seen what anybody on the receiver’s team earns with taxpayer money… If the city could have gotten that $ 2 million, we would be in a better financial situation.
Doweary said none of his team’s salaries are billed to the City of Chester. They are paid by state taxes.
“At this point, the mayor and council have not accepted any pay cut, but have asked the employees to do so,” the receiver said. “The city council and the mayor have not taken any reduction, even the others. “
Kapoor said the city has a mandatory obligation to maintain the salary changes he said he accepted in 2020.
“If you hand them over, it’s even harder to get people to come to an agreement with you to make changes,” he said, adding that those asked to make cuts ask: “Why do I have to do it when the elected officials got a raise?”
Kapoor said the city is still in severe financial distress and changes must occur to lift the city out of the budget emergency.
Morgan said elected officials’ salaries were increased to $ 40,000 in 2000 and remained the same for the next 11 years.
“The cost of living continues to increase every year, if not every two years,” he said, adding that many elected officials sit full time.
In 2011, an ordinance was passed that reduced wages from $ 40,000 to $ 35,000, Morgan explained.
In addition, he said council members previously received an allowance of $ 6,000 per year for a vehicle, which has since been removed.
“We all know the rising cost of living… we don’t take this position lightly at all,” Morgan said, adding that officials also contribute significantly to the city’s nonprofits.