Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Sun Valley councilmen snub meeting

Debate over salaries ends in stalemate

Express Staff Writer

A proposed salary increase for Sun Valley's elected officials died after Sun Valley Councilmen Lud Renick and Kevin Laird staged a boycott of the third reading of an ordinance authorizing it.

The absence of Renick and Laird at a City Council meeting on Friday, Sept. 2, prevented the formation of a quorum, which consists of at least three of the four council members.

"Responsible, mature elected legislators stand up for what they believe, debate openly and fully with their colleagues when they disagree, and provide a full record of their position by casting their vote," Mayor Jon Thorson said at the meeting. "Abstentions and boycotts are not what citizens pay their taxes for."

Thorson decided not to call a special meeting or reschedule a third reading at the council's Sept. 8 meeting. He said he did not schedule a third reading on Thursday since that meeting is slated for consideration of Sun Valley's 2005 Comprehensive Plan Update. He said the city's guiding land-use document deserves "respectful consideration and review."

"Sadly the city's time and efforts and citizens' tax dollars have been wasted by their boycott, obstructing the process of democracy and frustrating open, honest government," Thorson said.

Both councilmen were in attendance at the second reading Wednesday, Aug. 31, during which Thorson announced the city would hold a Friday meeting. At the mid-week meeting, Renick stated that he intended to boycott any meeting pertaining to the compensation issue.

At issue is an appropriation ordinance for $13,200 in salary increases proposed by Thorson. The proposal set $14,400 as the annual salary for each council member—a $200-per-month increase. The mayor would have received $21,600 annually—a $300-per-month increase.

The allocation of the funds is included in the 2005-2006 budget, but the council was required by law to pass a separate ordinance authorizing the raises. Thorson has contended that the increases fairly compensate civic service and account for a greater workload expected with the 2005 Comprehensive Plan Update.

A tight deadline set by Idaho laws requires salary increases for municipal officials to be passed in a general election year, at least 60 days before the election. To meet the deadline the council would be required to schedule a third reading prior to Sept. 9.

Because the measure failed to receive a third reading by today, the council will be required to wait until Sun Valley's next general election year in 2007 to address the issue.

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