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Council Splits Over Issue of Reimbursement

January 12, 1986|PAT BRENNAN | Times Staff Writer

POMONA — The city administrator saw the measures as just reimbursement for City Council members. But Councilman Jay Gaulding saw them as an underhanded attempt to slip a pay increase for council members past the public.

At issue at a meeting last week was whether to pay council members $150 per month for mileage instead of requiring them to file individual reports for reimbursement for travel on city business. Another point of contention was a measure to pay council members for the time they spend acting as the city Redevelopment Agency.

Together, the two measures would have netted council members $270 a month.

Although other council members disagreed with Gaulding, he persuaded them to postpone a decision on the mileage allowance. But the Redevelopment Agency compensation measure was approved by a 4-1 vote, with Gaulding dissenting.

City Administrator Ora Lampman had placed the measures on the council's consent agenda, a list of usually non-controversial, routine matters that is passed in a block with a single vote.

But when Gaulding saw last week's consent agenda, he protested strongly, saying that he did not feel justified in voting himself more money and that the consent agenda was not the proper place for such measures.

"I cannot vote for something like this through the back door," Gaulding said.

In his view, Gaulding said, the proposals were anything but routine.

Pomona is facing a $1.3-million shortfall at the end of this fiscal year, which is expected to grow to $4 million by 1987, city employees are angry over a delay in cost-of-living pay increases, and the city is looking into the possibility of contracting with the county for police, fire and library services to help cut costs.

"The timing on this has to be terrible when we are in the budget situation we're in," Gaulding told the four other council members.

Mileage Compensation

Councilwoman Donna Smith said the council should receive some guaranteed compensation for mileage, but argued that $150 a month seemed too high. And she pointed out that according to the Pomona City Charter, voters must approve any increase in council members' monthly salary, now $200 for council members and $400 for the mayor. Gaulding said that setting what he called an inordinately high mileage allowance would be a technically legal but unethical means of giving council members more money.

"There's no way in the world that I'm ever going to use $150 a month no matter how much driving I've done around this city," Gaulding said.

Lampman said he proposed the fixed mileage compensation because a lump sum payment is the only way to satisfy council members' desire to be reimbursed for mileage without being burdened with paper work.

"Some members of the council don't want to be bothered filling out forms," he said.

Based on Mayor's Travel

The $150 figure, Lampman said, was based on Mayor G. Stanton Selby's monthly travel, reimbursed at a rate of 20.5 cents per mile. Selby said he travels 700 to 800 miles a month and receives from $140 to $160.

Smith and Gaulding both said they average less travel than that each month. Smith said she files mileage reports every month but Gaulding said he almost never does.

Lampman said his decision to place the items on the consent agenda resulted from an agreement the council made in December to simplify meetings by voting more often on routine items as a block.

Placing more items on the consent agenda frees the council to spend its time discussing more significant subjects, Lampman said, and allows them to enact several essential but insignificant matters with a single vote.

Consent Agenda

Although Councilman Mark Nymeyer and Smith said they did not think Lampman misused the consent agenda, both said they would have placed such items on the regular agenda. But Nymeyer noted that the consent agenda is printed along with the regular agenda and is not hidden from the public.

In interviews since the meeting, council members defended their approval of the mileage fee and disputed Gaulding's contentions.

"That's a bunch of nonsense," said Nymeyer. "I don't think Gaulding had a leg to stand on in insinuating that somebody designed a sinister plot to increase the council's salary."

Nymeyer said he has never filed a mileage report and would have no way of knowing how much he spends on trips related to his job as councilman. But he said the issue was one of fair compensation, not underhanded greed. He also suggested that Gaulding's stance was somewhat elitist.

"This kind of narrow reasoning effectively restricts people from even considering themselves as City Council candidates because they can't afford it," he said.

History of Rome

Gaulding disagreed. "I look back at the history of Rome," he said. "When they started going down the drain was when they started paying their legislators."

Selby also said he did not believe the proposal was an attempt to deceive the voters.

The vote to allow pay for redevelopment work means that for the first time, council members will be paid for acting as that agency.

The council, which meets as often as seven times a month as the Redevelopment Agency, would be limited to collecting up to $120 a month, at $30 a meeting.

Gaulding said he did not think such payment could be justified in light of the city's budget problems. But Lampman and the other council members said the payment is deserved and will not affect the city budget because it will come from redevelopment funds.

"I didn't go into this job to get rich," Nymeyer said. "But public servants should be fairly compensated for the time they put in."

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