Brown vs. Lienhoop, Round 2

The Columbus City Council approved higher salary ranges for two key members of Mayor Jim Lienhoop’s administration, but not without criticism from former Mayor Kristen Brown.

Lienhoop created two executive director positions to streamline the chain of command in city operations, with two people handling most of the duties that three department heads had performed in the Brown administration.

The new structure will create more efficiency in city government, which justifies the extra work — and extra compensation — for the new department heads, Lienhoop said.

“I’m going to lean on them to do quite a bit,” the mayor said. “I’m just paying them fairly.”

The new mayor, who took office Jan. 1, appointed Mary Ferdon as executive director of community development and administration, and Dave Hayward as executive director of public works/city engineer. In her management team’s structure, Brown had one executive administrator.

The amended 2016 salary ordinance, which the council approved Tuesday night, officially created Lienhoop’s proposed positions while also increasing the salary ranges for the jobs held by Ferdon and Hayward.

Ferdon now can earn up to $82,600 annually, while Hayward can earn up to $92,000 annually, an increase of nearly $10,000 each compared to titles and job responsibilities that previously were limited to the community development director and city engineer.

Lienhoop said Ferdon’s annual compensation will be about $81,500, and Hayward’s will be about $92,000. Hayward will also receive an additional $13,064 annually, equal to what he would have received through the public employee retirement fund had he not already begun receiving his pension.

Since the city can no longer contribute to that pension fund even though Hayward is once again a municipal employee, it is paying an equivalent amount directly to him instead of a retirement account. He began drawing a pension from the city after resigning as city engineer in 2013. 

Hayward’s total salary will be $105,064, which is nearly $15,000 more than the $90,332 Lienhoop will make in his first year as mayor.

Ferdon initially had proposed an amendment to the 2016 budget at the Jan. 4 meeting — when the first of two votes on the matter was taken — that would have added $21,198 in additional appropriations to compensate for the salary increases.

However, she said at Tuesday’s meeting that she would look for money available through unfilled positions in the community development and engineering departments to fund the higher salaries for now.

Ferdon and Hayward are expected to earn a combined $186,564 this year, which is nearly $50,000 less than the $235,253 paid to the three department heads they replaced made last year.

Lienhoop’s two department heads are each returning to municipal work this year. Ferdon was Brown’s community development director for less than a year, and Hayward was her city engineer for about 18 months.

The new mayor said the return to city government by Ferdon and Hayward confirms their commitment to working in the best interest of local residents.

“They left public service because they didn’t want to work with her, and I think it’s a credit to them that they are willing to return, and a credit to me,” Lienhoop said when contacted Wednesday.

Salary criticism

Public discussion on higher pay for Ferdon and Hayward during Tuesday night’s meeting lasted about 45 minutes, with the bulk of the comments coming from Brown, whom Lienhoop defeated in last year’s Republican primary by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

Brown sharply criticized the higher salaries, however, calling them political patronage for support during Lienhoop’s mayoral campaign. Ferdon was Lienhoop’s campaign manager and Hayward also backed the former at-large councilman in his bid to become mayor.

The former mayor described the department-head increases as unprecedented. However, Lienhoop said he does not view the increased salaries as raises.

The new mayor said he always intended to offer higher pay to Ferdon and Hayward because of their additional duties but knew the legal process of amending the salary ordinance would delay effective dates of those salaries. Lienhoop said the two are getting the base salaries they were supposed to receive all along.

Ferdon’s duties include those that had previously been performed by Carl Malysz, former community development director, and some of the responsibilities of Jeff Logston, former city attorney and executive director of administration. Hayward replaced former city engineer Beth Fizel but also picked up additional responsibility. 

Logston, Malysz and Fizel were not retained as department heads by Lienhoop, moves that Brown criticized because she said all three were performing well in their city roles.

Unlike the structure of Brown’s administration, eight department heads are now reporting directly to Ferdon or Hayward instead of the mayor, Ferdon said.

If additional responsibilities for Ferdon and Hayward warrant a pay increase, however, then Lienhoop should take a pay decrease, Brown said.

As city attorney and executive director of administration, Logston earned $85,137 in 2015, more than Ferdon is expected to earn in 2016. Brown said Logston deserved the higher salary because he has a law degree.

Brown also accused Lienhoop of trying to push the raises through quickly at the beginning of the year instead of giving council members more time to consider the revisions.

When Brown was mayor, she said she routinely scheduled one meeting just for discussion of an upcoming action item, followed by votes at subsequent council meetings. Brown suggested the same approach starting with the Jan. 4 meeting, which occurred after she left office. But the new administration moved up the date, which allowed a vote on the salary changes to occur sooner.

Agenda posting

Brown contended that the updated agenda was never posted online prior to the meeting, leaving the public uninformed of the opportunity to speak for or against the salary ordinance amendment.

One member of the audience, planning commission member Russ Poling, also said he could not find the agenda online prior to the meeting, but added that he found it afterward in a new location on the city’s website.

City clerk-treasurer Luann Welmer — whose office has responsibility to post meeting agendas — said the council agenda was posted online prior to the Jan. 4 meeting. 

From a legal standpoint, city attorney Alan Whitted said the city is not required to post an agenda at all. However, if an agenda is posted, the only requirement is that it is visible outside the door of the meeting room. The council met that requirement Jan. 4, he said.

New Republican council member Laurie Booher asked members of the audience — about 40 attended — if they felt they had been given sufficient notice of the Jan. 4 meeting and if they felt the council members had spent enough time considering the amendment to the ordinance.

Booher received an overwhelmingly negative response, which is why she ultimately voted against the amendment Tuesday, she said. She had initially voted in favor of the proposed raises at the Jan. 4 meeting, but said Tuesday she was under the impression that the public knew of the agenda for the initial meeting.

But Lienhoop said the public was well-informed of the issues that the council intended to discuss, and the strong opposition to the ordinance amendment by those in attendance Tuesday proves that point.

“All of those people who were complaining seemed to know exactly what was going on,” Lienhoop said.

Councilman Frank Miller opposed the amendment at the Jan. 4 meeting and also at Tuesday’s meetings. Miller said he is in favor of doing a total review of city employees’ salaries, rather than changing a few at a time.

Ferdon said a review of the salary ordinance is planned sometime in the next few months, although she did not have a specific date.

The remaining five members of the council, including Tim Shuffett, Elaine Wagner, Tom Dell, Dascal Bunch and Frank Jerome, voted for the ordinance a second time, making it official. The higher salaries will be included in the next paychecks for Ferdon and Hayward.

Lienhoop called the heated exchanges among Brown, the council and the public unfortunate, and credited Brown’s anger, specifically, to her lingering resentment over losing the 2015 election.

“I feel like there’s a little bit of sour grapes,” he said.

What the council did

The seven-member city council approved an amendment to the 2016 salary ordinance Tuesday that makes several changes to salaries and job titles as part of a reorganization of city government operations proposed by new Mayor Jim Lienhoop. The proposal increases responsibilities for two city department heads, who will handle most of the work performed by three department heads previously. The council’s action Tuesday:

  • Changes the title of community development director to executive director of community development and administration, a position held by Mary Ferdon.
  • Changes the title of city engineer to executive director of public works/city engineer, a position held by Dave Hayward.
  • Increases Ferdon’s salary range to a maximum of $82,600.
  • Increases Hayward’s salary range to a maximum of $92,000.
  • Awards Hayward an additional $13,064 annually in lieu of a city pension.
  • Changes the title of mayor’s executive secretary to mayor’s executive assistant.
  • Increases the per diem pay for school crossing guards to $34.46 from $33.78.

Department head salaries

Salaries for Columbus elected officials effective this year include:

  • Jim Lienhoop, mayor: $90,332
  • Luann Welmer, clerk-treasurer: $74,909
  • Part-time council members: $7,554

The 2016 salary ordinance sets compensation for the remaining department heads at:

  • Nicohl Birdwell-Goodin, animal care: $50,407
  • Brian Payne, aviation: $73,517
  • Cindy Setser, ColumBus transit: $45,069
  • Keith Reeves, Columbus utilities: $102,112
  • Mike Compton, fire: $68,687
  • Aida Ramirez, Human Rights commission: $70,610
  • Mark Jones, parks and recreation: $79,070
  • Jeff Bergman, planning: $83,597
  • Jon Rohde, police: $72,951
  • Bryan Burton, public works: $68,352
  • Heather Pope, redevelopment: $72,162

On the Web

To watch the Jan. 4 or Tuesday discussions of the salary ordinance amendment, visit columbus.in.gov/city-hall/video-streaming/.

Author photo
Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.