MINNEAPOLIS -- City Council members are drawing fire for the way they went about passing a $10,000 pay hike, without a public hearing and virtually no advance notice of the plan.
The vote came near the end of the December 15 council meeting that had been marked by formal farewells to members who are leaving the council at the end of the year, and outgoing Mayor Betsy Hodges.
"Raising pay for elected officials is always a politically thorny issue," Matt Ehling, who heads the open government watchdog group Public Record Media, told KARE.
"It's also a hot button issue,and if you look back you'll see the way it's been done by other localities is with a public hearing."
Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson introduced a resolution to raise the salary of council members from $88,000 to $98,000, plus annual cost of living raises equal to those negotiated by the city's public employee bargaining groups.
The same resolution raised the pay of the mayor from $116,000 to $126,000 per year.
"We had several years when we had no salary increases whatsoever," Johnson explained.
"Generally this will put us on par with other full time councils across the country, including Denver and Boston."
Johnson asked if any of her fellow council members wanted to discuss it, and received no responses. It passed on a unanimous voice vote a moment later. Council Member Abdi Warsame didn't take part because he was absent.
"The Minneapolis City Council, like any other piece of important business, should've notified the public in advance that they were going to be undertaking a review of their compensation, and given the public the opportunity to come and speak on that issue," Ehling added.
Johnson herself won't ever receive the pay raise because she lost her bid for reelection. The same goes for council members John Quincy and Blong Yang, who were unseated in November. A fourth member, Elizabeth Glidden, decided not to seek another term.
Council member Jacob Frey will become mayor in January, so he'll benefit from the pay hike the mayor's office. He was not available for comment Thursday.
Johnson didn't respond to a message left at her office on Thursday.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune took the Council to task, labeling the vote "needlessly sneaky" in a staff editorial. Ehling said he'd have to agree with that assessment.
"That's not the way you want to conduct public business," Ehling remarked. "You want to give the voters and the constituents plenty of opportunity to weigh in ahead of time."
The Minneapolis City Council did hold a hearing on its 2018 budget at an earlier meeting, but the money used to pay for the raises wasn't included in that budget. Johnson's resolution called for paying for the raises by cutting appropriations in a handful of city departments.
Two of Ehling's fellow members of The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, or MNCOGI, agreed with his assessment. Rich Neumeister and Don Gemberling both told KARE they would expect a lot more transparent process from the governing body of Minnesota's largest city.