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Gilbert council delays pay decision again after clash

Posted 6/22/24

After a study session with an edge to it, Gilbert Town Council punted again on making a decision about council pay raises.  

The council will take up the matter Aug. 6 with council members …

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Gilbert council delays pay decision again after clash


After a study session with an edge to it, Gilbert Town Council punted again on making a decision about council pay raises. 

The council will take up the matter Aug. 6 with council members Jim Torgeson and Chuck Bongiovanni insisting that “in full transparency” Councilmember Yung Koprowski be present for the full discussion and vote. Koprowski missed the June 18 meeting as she is out of the country. 

Council previously considered it alongside the budget at the June 4 meeting after it was added late to the agenda, but some council members protested they had not had proper time to study and consider the resolution. Council agreed to take up the matter with a June 18 study session and at the regular meeting. 

Because a public hearing had been scheduled on the matter as part of the business meeting, Mayor Brigette Peterson had been set to allow those members of the public who had come for the hearing to still give their comments. The people requesting to speak included some former council members. 

But council voted by super majority to not hear them, prompting Peterson, the only person to vote in dissent, to apologize to the public. 

“I have never in 24 years seen this happen from this dais, so please come back and speak on this item in August,” she said.  

Responded Bongiovanni: “Mayor, this wasn’t a negative thing. This was for transparency, so to come out and say that and make it sound like a bad thing, this was a good thing so we can hear from Councilmember Koprowski.” 

But Peterson said she is the one who receives “nasty comments” about stopping public comment but she wanted to allow them to do so. 

“If they took their time to come out this evening to speak, I believe they should be allowed to do so, and that is what I have seen for 24 years historically,” she said. 

Before the meeting, council held a nearly 80-minute study session on the topic where staff presented the state law that applies and the various responsibilities and duties of council members, reviewed historical information related to council compensation and salary and showed various options for adjusting compensation. 

At the end, Council Member Kathy Tilque — who is leaving council next January at the end of her term — proposed that no pay raise should take place until 2027, when every member of council will have either left or run for re-election. 

Tilque noted that it was a bad look for council to give itself pay raises after passing on steep town utility increases to residents. 

“If we're going to do a pay rate, it needs to be 2027 if the argument is truly to get good candidates to run,” she said. “If that is not the argument and we want to give ourselves a raise .. we need to be very honest with the public and say ... we're giving ourselves a raise because we believe we deserve it and those who will be leaving and those who were before didn't have the same value that we have today.” 

Torgeson and Bongiovanni, who have been the primary proponents of the raise and have argued it was needed to attract more candidates for office, pushed back against Tilque’s assertion that many ordinary citizens have served on council in the past despite the low pay. 

“If we want to continue to have people that don't read the (council agenda) packet, that don't put in the time, this is what we do,” Torgeson said. “We put it out there that you put yourself open for the attacks, you put yourself open for vandalism, you're hoping do all those things and we'll continue to get that part-time. I'm committed to doing the job right. It takes a lot of time.” 

He also noted that the water rates are tied to an enterprise fund that has nothing to do with the pay raises and is not part of the overall budget. 

Bongiovanni said he respected Tilque but did not believe her argument applied. 

“When a leader makes a decision, they take the consequences of that decision and they also take the benefits of that decision,” he said. “If a consequence of a decision is people are angry with me and I don't get reelected, even if I decide to right away, that's my cross to bear and that's my consequence for making any decision I make on this dais.  

“I'm not going to make a decision for appearance. If I'm making a decision hoping that people forget about it in 2027, I don't want to be that kind of politician, and I don't want anyone up here that's going to vote only because they're fearful that they may lose if they vote on something.” 

At the June 4 meeting, Torgeson proposed pay raises that would make council member pay equal to the lowest paid full-time employee for the town and the mayor to 1.3 times the lowest paid employee. 

That would raise the mayor’s salary from $43,631 to $69,275.54, a 58.78% increase, and the council members’ salaries from $21,012 to $53,288.88, a 153.61% increase.    

No firm numbers were proposed June 18, but that option was presented along with benchmarking pay against similar Arizona cities or a method that would take into consideration consumer price index increases dating back to the last raise. 

We would like to invite our readers to submit their civil comments, pro or con, on this issue. Email AZOpinions@iniusa.org. Tom Blodgett can be reached by email at tblodgett@iniusa.org or follow him @sp_blodgett on X.