November 28, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria mayor wants raise for her legal counsel

ELYRIA — Deciding what the mayor’s administrative legal counsel should be paid has always been a contentious debate in Elyria.

Monday proved to be no different.

Mayor Holly Brinda brought a proposal to the Finance Committee to adjust the salary ordinance to reflect a change in pay for the attorney she hires to represent her interests. And Council members quickly wanted to know why.

“Basically to me, it’s just a part-time job and $40,000 doesn’t seem fair for just a part-time job,” said Councilman Larry Tanner, D-Ward 1. “I like the guy, but this guy is not full-time. He has other businesses and his practice as well.”

While the city’s law director — Scott Serazin — is elected to represent Council, the mayor has to hire a separate lawyer to deal with matters when she or her administration is named in lawsuits, the most typical being when employees dispute termination or labor negotiations.

The Finance Committee eventually approved Brinda’s request, sans Tanner who voted against the ordinance. However, that request resulted in a 20-minute debate on how much is too much.

Brinda requested a set salary of $42,000. It reflects the salary that was paid in 2011.

Brinda has to come back to Council because in 2012, after hiring an assistant safety service director with a law degree and experience in labor law, Brinda thought it was wise to reduce the salary by $30,000.

With the hiring of former Assistant Safety Service Director Elayne Siegfried, Brinda moved to drop Smith’s salary of $42,602 to just $1,000. It also was agreed that if Smith was called upon to do additional work, Brinda said he would be paid $175 per hour, and his compensation would not exceed the contract amount of $42,602.

After Siegfried left the city not less than three months after her hiring, her absence meant that in 2012 Smith made his normal freight. Now, Brinda wants Council to go back to the normal salary of just over $42,000.

Some on Council said the change as necessary.

“This is a year we are negotiating contracts,” said Council President Mike Lotko, D-at large. “If we keep this hourly rate, we could be looking at more by the end of the year. We are wise to lock it down for a set salary.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.