Akins claims race disparity in wages

FOREST PARK — Councilwoman Latresa Akins claims there is a disparity in wages between black and white city workers in Forest Park and wants an investigation into their salaries.

It took a rare closed-door session Monday night for council to reach a compromise vote on the raise. Since he took office last year, Mayor David Lockhart has encouraged council to discuss as much as possible during open meetings.

However, Akins wanted to talk about specific employees, including management analyst Angela Redding.

“Angela is making $58,000 a year and she’s city manager material,” said Akins. “Some directors are making $100,000 a year and they don’t deserve a raise. The people working in the field deserve it. Why isn’t Angela Redding making more money? She deserves way more than 4 percent.”

Akins, Mayor Pro Tem Maudie McCord and Councilman Dabouze Antoine balked at the proposal, expected to cost nearly $250,000 for six months and $500,000 a year afterward. Antoine said he needed more information to make a “wise decision” and wanted to table the action.

“We asked the city manager for more information but still haven’t gotten it,” he said. “We wanted dates of hire, salary, wages and would even like to know what the 4 percent increase would make the salaries then.”

City Manager Frank Brandon reluctantly provided council members with a list of employees and their salaries during last week’s meeting.

Akins also fought hard against the across-the-board raise for all city workers but acquiesced after meeting with the rest of council in a secret session Monday.

Council members Tommy Smith and Linda Lord wanted the full 4 percent for all workers. However, they agreed to the amount for employees and a 2 percent increase for directors.

Brandon, who has been in his position since last summer, opted out of a raise. He told the council last week he didn’t need the money.

Akins told Clayton News Daily after the meeting that black city workers earn less money than their white counterparts and wants an investigation. City council authorized a salary survey in 2011 with the intent to bring equity to employees.

There is just one black director among city departments.

Forming and approving the URA didn’t go any smoother and a matter of semantics seems to have kept Antoine from getting his appointee to the board.

The law requires the mayor to make the appointments but Lockhart said he would approve members from the council in order to get URA in place. Monday’s meeting was the council’s third try at approval.

The first hiccup came when Lockhart called for a motion on the six-person committee. McCord said she would make the motion but wanted to amend it to five members. Antoine then wanted to make the term four years instead of three.

“What’s the point of four years?” said Lord. “Two years is too short and four is too long. Three years is generally the median.”

Antoine said he thought the committee term should match the length of the council’s. He was able to get one other council member to vote with him but Lord and Smith voted against him. Lockhart broke the tie by voting “no” and the motion failed.

Staffing the committee led to a series of votes that McCord largely ignored, leading Lockhart to break the 2-2 ties.

There was some discussion on whether Joe Wimberly, Smith’s stepfather, could serve or if it would be a conflict of interest. Lockhart said because Smith is not in a position to profit from URA, Wimberly could serve.

“So if I want to nominate my mom, that would be OK?” said Akins.

Smith’s appointment of Wimberly was approved but Antoine voted against it.

Lord nominated Don Wright but Antoine declined to approve him.

“I don’t know who these people are,” said Antoine, who took office Jan. 1.

With the vote being 2-2, Lockhart broke the tie and Wright was approved.

McCord nominated Felicia Davis, who was approved. Lockhart nominated Brandon and again the vote was 2-2 with McCord remaining silent.

When Antoine “recommended” instead of “nominating” Robin Plummer, the motion was approved but Lockhart said the wording wasn’t appropriate. He then asked for a fifth nomination, which was provided by Akins’ choice of Lois Wright.

The committee has three white and two black members. A resident complained to Brandon after the meeting that Hispanics are not represented.

“I tried to get (an Hispanic resident) nominated to the board but they wouldn’t approve him,” Brandon said.

Antoine declined to comment on the outcome of his motion.