Council defeats raises for Forest Park workers

FOREST PARK — A heated discussion regarding a 4 percent across-the-board raise for more than 250 Forest Park city employees ended in defeat Tuesday night but the issue could be re-visited next month.

Councilwoman Latresa Akins questioned the action and asked for a list of employees and their salaries. City Manager Frank Brandon became defensive about the request and the questioning of his recommendation.

“(Human Resources Director) Christine Terrell has worked here 25 years and has never been asked to run off salaries for council,” said Brandon.

He went on to caution council members to not take the list, which is available to the public under the Open Records Act, home. Brandon first provided them with a breakdown of the increase in salaries by department. The listing shows the 4 percent raise will cost $244,767 for six months. It will cost the city about a half million dollars a year to maintain the raise, he said.

Mayor David Lockhart said the raise is deserved and should be given not only to reward employees but to retain them.

“We’ve been talking about this for a long time,” he said. “Our employees, not so unlike other employees, have gone without raises for a long time. We have fabulous employees in the city.”

Brandon said the last raise was given July 1, 2011.

Brandon said the money would come from a variety of sources including $15,000 saved from not having a citywide Christmas lunch, $39,000 from Atlanta Gas Light Co. for an easement, $150,000 in an account at Heritage Bank, $40,000 from the state to fund police services at State Farmers Market, $50,000 from Development Authority and $100,000 from the sale of property on Main Street.

“I could go on and on about the amount of money we’ve found that can fund this,” said Brandon. “I will assure you we have enough funds for at least two or three years.”

Councilwoman Linda Lord and Mayor Pro Tem Maudie McCord also asked for more information. Councilman Tommy Smith said he approved of the raise. Akins wanted specific salary amounts, which seemed to baffle Brandon.

“It’s across the board,” he said. “It’s fair and logical. It’s what they do in education with teachers. There’s nothing inequitable about it.”

Akins remained skeptical.

“Basically, you could tell us anything,” she said. “If we don’t know what they made to begin with, we don’t know if they are getting a 4 percent raise.”

McCord raised other concerns.

“I think the council needs to be more involved in this,” she said. “Everyone gets a raise? Even someone hired last week? Even department heads? I still feel employees deserve a raise but I feel we as council members should be more involved.”

Brandon said he would forgo his raise if council approved it, saying he didn’t need the money.

After the meeting, Akins shared McCord’s sentiments.

“I am not opposed to the raise,” she said. “I don’t want anyone thinking that. I just feel like decisions are being made without us, like before.”

When Lockhart called for a vote, only Smith and Lord approved the request, which failed due to lack of a majority. After the meeting, Brandon apologized to several police officers, telling them he tried to get them a raise. Smith just shook his head in amazement that the measure failed.

The issue can be put on the agenda for the next meeting, which is Feb. 3. Akins said she just wants time to digest the information.

“I am not against the raises,” she said.