A group of about 67 municipal employees filed a restraining order Jan. 13 against Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson and Finance Director Paul Wesch, claiming the mayor broke protocol Dec. 30 by canceling New Year pay raises promised by the previous administration.
Wesley Young, president of the City of Mobile United Public Service Workers, Inc., said the group filed the injunction because Stimpson sidestepped the City Council’s authority to rescind the raises and rewrite the budget.
“I was employed by the city for 36 years and have been the president of this organization for 21 years, and I have never seen a new mayor come in and rescind raises that were approved by a 6-to-1 vote by the City Council,” Young said.
A 2.5 percent raise promoted by former mayor Sam Jones in an election year was indeed approved by the City Council last September, but a forensic audit completed since Stimpson took office revealed the 2014 budget was unbalanced when passed, and the city was running a $15,810,643 deficit in the previous budget. State law requires Mobile to pass a balanced budget, so Stimpson has decided he would be resubmitting a budget with several spending changes, including doing away with the raise Jones promised.
Stimpson said he was hoping to have a new budget ready to present to the City Council by February and in an email to employees, said no raise would be recommended until “critical budget shortfalls” were addressed. The Mobile Personnel Board has the ultimate vote on proposed raises. Meanwhile, employees of the city have not had a raise in more than seven years.
“We are aware of the complaint and the City Attorney’s office is in the process of reviewing it,” said George Talbot, the mayor’s spokesman. “The decision not to implement the raises at this time was dictated by the discovery of significant shortfalls in the current city budget. The law clearly states that the budget must be balanced and the administration is working diligently to return the city to solid financial footing.”
Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Sarah Stewart set a hearing date of Jan. 29 in the injunction. The City of Mobile United Public Service Workers publicly endorsed Jones’ mayoral campaign, but Young said the injunction was not politically motivated.