Fairhope city employee pay, benefits in mayor's plan called into question

Wilson barred press from meeting

By Cliff McCollum
Posted 3/3/17

Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson held two meetings last week for Fairhope city employees, with questions about pay raises and insurance costs on the agenda and where she asked a Gulf Coast Media editor to …

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Fairhope city employee pay, benefits in mayor's plan called into question

Wilson barred press from meeting

Posted

Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson held two meetings last week for Fairhope city employees, with questions about pay raises and insurance costs on the agenda and where she asked a Gulf Coast Media editor to leave.

Several city employees later told a Gulf Coast Media editor the discussions included Wilson saying there would be no cost of living raises for city employees this year.

The mayor’s plan stated merit-based raises would be implemented instead, which had some employees worried.

“So, we have to hope that whoever doles out these raises is going to be kind to us?” one employee questioned. “This just seems like a way to show favoritism to certain employees over others.”

Also up for discussion was the employee insurance package.

Currently, the city of Fairhope fully pays for its employees’ coverage, but under the proposal brought forward from the mayor, employees would have to start picking up some of the costs.

“We aren’t getting cost of living raises and we’re having to pay for our insurance now,” an employee said. “That’s a pay cut. How could anyone think that’s anything but a pay cut?”

Gulf Coast Media attempted to attend one of the meetings, but our editor was asked by the mayor to leave, saying it was not a public meeting.

However, Gulf Coast Media learned at least one member of the public not employed by the city, the mayor’s sister Kelley Lyons, was in attendance for the meeting.

Wilson said she was unaware her sister was at the meeting, but didn’t think it was a big deal.

“She’s not a reporter,” Wilson said.

Wilson said other non-employees, including two council members, had attended the meetings she had asked the media not to attend.

“You were there to report on it, and I was there to just squash a rumor that I’m making city employees pay for all of their insurance and lowering their salary” Wilson told our editor. “That was in a memo. I didn’t want the city employees to fear that was happening because it’s nonsense. “

Wilson said the meetings were to help calm confusion and worry amongst city employees about the items discussed.

“Right now, rumors are not my friend, and it was more just to settle a bunch of very upset and confused city employees,” Wilson said.

Councilman Kevin Boone attended one of the meetings and said he was immediately surrounded by city employees who still demanded answers.

“The minute I showed up, I was encircled by employees who still had a number of questions that didn’t seem to get answered,” Boone said.

Boone said the presentation the mayor gave was just a tentative plan and added some of the numbers given might be “somewhat skewed.”

Boone said he tried to reassure city employees about some of their concerns.

“The council is not in favor of doing anything with or adjusting the insurance at all,” Boone said. “The council is definitely in favor of leaving the benefits alone, and the council is the body that has the power to approve or deny any changes there.”

Boone did say that for future employees that could come to the city, the council may look at making some changes there.

Boone said with regard to merit-based raises he felt the personnel board will hopefully be instrumental in helping to develop that process.

“The personnel board would like to work on what does constitute a merit-based raise or not,” Boone said. “I know we’ve had a cost of living raise every year I’ve been in office, and the city of Fairhope can not continue each year to give a cost of living raise and be able to continue to afford them. Merit-based raises will still allow us to reward our outstanding employees for the hard work they do for our city.”