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VOL. 128 | NO. 227 | Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Commission Begins Debate on Pay for Elected Offices

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Commissioners voted Monday, Nov. 18, to keep their annual pay at $29,100 for the term of office that begins Sept. 1, 2014, after the August county general elections.

The ordinance passed on the first of three readings.

The commission, also in the first of three readings, approved keeping the pay of the Shelby County mayor at $144,500 and Shelby County sheriff at $115,000 for the next term of office.

But the body had a harder time on the third in the trio of ordinances that sets the salaries for the Shelby County trustee, Shelby County assessor of property, Shelby County clerk and Shelby County register of deeds.

The commission voted down a move to keep the pay of all four the same – the trustee, clerk and register currently each make $107,975 a year; the assessor makes $108,617.

But the commission also voted down the unamended ordinance on first reading that would have raised their pay to $113,624 a year. Those holding those four offices after the 2014 county general elections automatically get any pay raise that rank-and-file county employees get unless the commission specifically exempts them in the county’s budget ordinance.

None of the six current countywide office holders have said they want the raises recommended after a review by county Chief Administrative Officer Harvey Kennedy of salaries paid those in comparable elected positions in comparable Tennessee cities.

Trustee David Lenoir said last week that he specifically didn’t want a pay raise.


Commissioner Walter Bailey, who voted against keeping the commission’s pay the same, also said the other elected offices should see a pay increase.

“You see that there’s a great disparity,” he said, adding that the current six-figure salaries would discourage citizens from seeking elected office. “It’s just not fair. It’s not rational. All of the data would support raising it. But your minds are already closed.”

“Are these people not going to run if they don’t get a raise?” asked Commissioner Terry Roland who opposed a pay increase for any of the elected officials. “Do you promise not to run if you don’t get a raise? This is about pensions. This is about padding somebody’s pocket for when they retire.”

Meanwhile, Commissioner Henri Brooks questioned why the commission didn’t get to vote on setting the salaries of the elected court clerks. Brooks, who is running for Juvenile Court clerk in the May Democratic primary, also questioned specifically why the commission had no vote in setting the pay of the Juvenile Court clerk and Juvenile Court judge.

Shelby County Attorney Kelly Rayne said those are positions set in the Tennessee Constitution. The trustee, county clerk, register and assessor all became positions of the Shelby County home rule charter with charter amendments approved by county voters in 2008.

The three pay ordinances each would be for the next four-year term of office that begins Sept. 1, 2014.

Six of the 13 Shelby County Commissioners won’t be seeking re-election next year because of term limits.

Also approved Monday was commission Chairman James Harvey’s ordinance to regulate used tire dealers and used tire haulers in the unincorporated county.

The ordinance was amended to make the fee $250 a year for a tire hauler permit and allowing those haulers who already have paid similar fees in other jurisdictions to deduct that amount from the fee they would pay Shelby County.

The proposal has also been changed to exempt anyone hauling no more than four tires from a house or apartment as part of removing other residential solid waste from the location. It also exempts someone who has bought no more than four used tires to reuse.

County attorneys have also removed any references to city of Memphis enforcement of the ordinance meaning Harvey abandoned plans to make his proposal a joint city-county ordinance.

The ordinance applies to anyone hauling more than four used tires in unincorporated Shelby County even if they are driving from one city or town in the county to another. There are currently no used tire businesses in unincorporated Shelby County to which the ordinance would apply.

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