Mayor Sandy Stimpson has postponed the implementation of city employee raises he implemented after the Mobile City Council excluded 113 employees he appointed from the 2.5-percent pay hike.
At a press conference following the council’s affirmative vote on the amended resolution, Stimpson questioned whether the council had the legal authority to make changes to the item that would have dispersed $1.3 million to all city employees, adding that the board’s actions put all the raises at risk.
“That’s not a risk I’m willing to take,” Stimpson said from Government Plaza’s 10th floor conference room. “We’re going to look for another way to give all city employees a raise. This is not over.”
In response to Stimpson’s announcement, councilors released the following statement through media specialist Marion Steinfels, who has not been paid for her work since litigation over her employment began in December.
“We are disappointed that despite the Council’s unanimous support for a cost of living raise for our merit system city employees, the Mayor has chosen this path,” the statement read. “At his request, we approved the raise which would cover 99% of our rank and file employees. We hope the mayor will reconsider his position and send it on to the Mobile Personnel Board for implementation.”
While some councilors expressed a willingness to approve the raises, council attorney Wanda Cochran advised them to leave out Stimpson’s appointed employees, while the mayor’s lawsuit against the council over hiring power under the city’s current form of government is litigated.
“My legal advice is that you do not increase salaries for Section 40 employees,” she told councilors. “It is squarely within the litigation and would be detrimental.”
Those councilors, including Vice President Levon Manzie and Gina Gregory, expressed a willingness to revisit the raises for those in mayoral appointments after the ongoing mediation between the two sides comes to an end. Gregory admitted during the meeting on Tuesday, May 14, that the raises would not have had enough support to pass without the amendment to exclude the appointed positions.
The amendment, added by Councilwoman Bess Rich, passed 5-1, with only Councilman Joel Daves voting against it. The amended resolution was approved by a 5-0 vote, with Councilman John Williams absent.
During a pre-conference meeting, city attorney Ricardo Woods accused the councilors and Cochran of “weaponizing” the raises and holding the 56 employees impacted “hostage.”
“I understand why it’s being weaponized,” Woods told councilors. “It’s good leverage.”
Woods argued the mayor’s office was asking for a budget amendment and he would make the decision on where it goes. It shouldn’t impact the litigation, he said.
Councilman Fred Richardson disagreed. He said Stimpson initially sued over the council’s attempted re-hiring of a media specialist. It was an amended complaint filed by Stimpson that added Section 40 employees to the fray and argued he had the authority to appoint them. Richardson accused Stimpson’s office of using the issue for leverage in court.
“Now you want to go back and say the council legalized it,” he said. “It’s the okey-doke and we’re not going down that road right now.”
The council has already approved raises for public works employees during the 2019 budget debates. Richardson said Stimpson’s office ignored that raise.
The cost-of-living raise would have gone to more than 2,000 city employees, which council Vice President Levon Manzie focused on.
“It’s the will of this council that everyone who deserves a raise gets a raise,” Manzie said. “Ninety-nine point whatever percent of city employees will see this.”
Councilman C.J. Small asked Stimpson to add an incentive package for hiring new police officers. He said he gets complaints over police response time.
In other business, the council approved a third entertainment district to include the city’s waterfront and portions of St. Louis Street.
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