By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
Oklahoma County elected officials will see a little extra in their checks next year.
The officials last week voted themselves a $17,375 annual pay raise despite pushback from the public and county commissioners.
The proposed 14% annual pay increase passed by a 5-2 vote with one member abstaining.
With the raise, the assessor, treasurer, court clerk, county clerk, sheriff and three county commissioners will make $122,637.50 per year. The previous salary of $105,262.50 annually had been in place since 2008.
The Oklahoma County Budget Board, which is comprised of the eight officials, has the authority to set salaries for the elected officials.
Commissioner Brian Maughan was the most vocal opponent of the pay increase and questioned the timing of the special meeting, which took place two days before Christmas.
“This being done on Christmas Eve eve, I think stinks to high heaven,” he said. “I’m against it anyway. … But to try to do this right before the holiday, I just totally disagree with.”
Officials in favor of the pay raise admitted the timing looks bad, but said it is necessary to attract and retain good employees. Treasurer Butch Freeman said that county officials had not receive a pay raise since 2008. He also noted that county officials cannot pay their employees more than they make.
“There’s never a good time,” Freeman said. “It’s just going to be that simple.”
Larry Stein, county assessor, said the current pay scale limits his ability to keep good employees.
“I lost a mapper to a municipality in the area because I couldn’t pay him what he needed to stay,” he said. “I need high-tech people. High-tech people are not cheap. And I need them to be working for me. And I need this to be able to compete … for good help.”
Stein, Freeman, Court Clerk Rick Warren, County Clerk David Hooten and County Commissioner Carrie Blumert voted for the raise.
Maughan and Commissioner Kevin Calvey vote against the measure.
Undersheriff Will Blaik, who represented Sheriff P.D. Taylor abstained from the vote. Taylor lost re-election and will be leaving office in January.
Maughan continued to voice his frustration after the 5-2 vote.
“I’m very disappointed. I’m sorry,” he said. “I’d say Merry Christmas but you guys just wished yourself a Merry Christmas.”
Calvey said he plans to donate the pay raise to charity.
According to the Oklahoma City Free Press, Blumert, who voted in favor of the pay raise, released a statement after the meeting saying the following:
“Because the State Legislature has tied our hands, many county employees have been ineligible for pay increases for years. Combined, they have over 300 years of service to Oklahoma County. These are highly skilled and dedicated individuals who have sacrificed to serve the public. I voted yes today to support them. Their opportunities should not be limited by politicians concerned with optics. I would be thrilled to see an amendment to state law that allows us to set salaries for employees higher than county elected officials.”