In a press release, mayoral candidate Boyd Corbin criticized the commission for a lack of transparency, giving “bloated” employee raises and funding those raises with a hidden tax.
“Wilton Manors has been issuing raises of 6-7% for the last three years in a row. This hike comes in the form of a standard 3% raise plus another 3%-4% in “merit pay” (nearly all employees get the maximum) as it was outlined in the city’s initial 2017 budget,” he wrote. He also pointed to the 2014-2015 Florida League of City’s State of the Cities report in which 70 percent of Florida cities gave employee raises of three percent or less. The other 30 percent did not give raises in 2014-2015. In 2014-2015, Wilton Manors gave general employees a 3 percent COLA and a 0-3 percent merit increase.
While this year’s police raises are a possible 6 to 7 percent, 3 percent COLA and 0 to 4 percent merit per the three-year PBA contract which expires in 2017, the general employees are only eligible for a 1.5 percent COLA and a 0 to 3 percent merit. At the Sept. 12 commission meeting, Commissioner Julie Carson suggested increasing the employee COLA and Commissioner Justin Flippen said he’d like the general employee and police salary increases to be closer together. Both ideas failed for lack of support from the rest of the commission.
During the Sept. 29 Candidates Forum at Hagen Park, Mayor Gary Resnick disputed Corbin on employee pay. “We are not giving huge raises to our employees.” This year’s budgeted wages for all employees increased from $7.6 million in 2015-2016 to $7.9 million in 2016-2017, an increase of 3.1 percent.
Every city employee received a 1.5 percent COLA [cost of living adjustment] and the possibility of an additional 0 to 3 percent merit pay increase. At their Sept. 12 budget meeting, commissioners discussed an increase to the 1.5 percent COLA for city employees but kept the original number.
In his accusations of lack of transparency, Corbin wrote in the headline of his press release that city officials discussed employee raises in an empty room during the commission meeting on Sept. 12. In the body of the press release, he wrote “The video clearly shows virtually nobody in the Commission Chambers.”
But the video in question, provided by the city on its website, does show individuals in attendance. One can be seen throughout the video and a second can be seen briefly during the Pledge of Allegiance. Resident Paul Kuta also be seen speaking during the public comment section of the meeting. There were also several individuals in the audience that can be seen at the very end of the video after the meeting ends. All the individuals seen in the video were in the audience for the entire meeting.
Asked about his statements of lack of transparency when the city publishes meeting dates, allows the public to attend meetings, and posts meeting videos of meetings online for anyone to review, Corbin said he considers the number of people in the audience as virtually empty and that the commission tries to discourage public input. “There are more people running the meeting than watching the meeting. The residents are very frustrated and completely ignored. It’s a great way to keep people out of their way.”
Carson said that she and other commissioners want the public to attend meetings and speak up if they have something to say. Corbin accused Carson specifically of admitting she wanted less transparency when she said she was “so glad Boyd Corbin is not here” during the meeting.
In an interview with The Gazette, Carson said she was glad Corbin was absent because he makes statements that aren’t correct. “Part of the difficulty of when Boyd speaks is he misrepresents or gets many of the facts incorrect. As a result [the commission] has to go back and provide accurate information for the record for people who are there. So when he’s not there, we don’t have to undo some of the misstatements.”
Corbin also accused officials of not wanting to release salary information of employees over the last 10 years and requested he pay $20,275 for the information.
Corbin said the city provided the information after he talked to the First Amendment Foundation.
Dio Sanchez, human resources director, said that the request for payment was dropped when Corbin refined his request. In his original email, Corbin asked for personnel files and salaries. Sanchez said the salary information was easy to procure but getting all of the personal files, some of which are hundreds of pages or more for each employee, would have required extensive staff time and copies.