UPDATE: Council restores mayor retirement pay, 3-2

Zuckerman links 2019 mayor pay cut to positioning for then-upcoming mayor’s race

Read transcript from council debate

Other results from tonight’s meeting

Editor’s Note: A correction was made to this story on October 23rd. Mandeville Daily had incorrectly attributed authorship of Ordinance 19-33 to then-Councilman at Large Clay Madden. He supported the ordinance and voted in favor, but did not officially author it. Read the full correction here. Additionally, Councilman Skelly Kreller was factually incorrect when he stated Clay Madden was the Council Chairman when Ordinance 19-33 was introduced and adopted. Madden supported and voted in favor of 19-33. However, Madden was in fact the council chairman when Ordinance 19-11 was introduced and adopted. Ordinance 19-11 was the council’s first attempt to lower future mayors’ salary, which resulted in a lawsuit from sitting mayor Donald Villere, to which the council repealed 19-11 with Ordinance 19-27 after setting a public referendum to amend the charter.

Updated October 17, 2021, at 9:22AM – Adds quotes, context and transcript.

MANDEVILLE — The City Council voted (October 14th) to have the taxpayers fund the mayor’s contribution to the state retirement system as it does all other full-time employees, fixing a technical error in a 2019 ordinance which lowered the mayor’s salary and cut benefits.

Again, debate focused on whether the city should be paying retirement for the mayor and other employees, but this time, questions were raised about the motivation behind the 2019 ordinance which slashed the chief executive’s pay and benefits.

So I don’t think the decision they originally made with regard to that was appropriate. I don’t think the timing of it was appropriate… Look… the mayor voted for it… and as much as I’d like to make somebody live with the decisions and a position they took on something, I’m separating the person from the issue and I just feel strongly it needs to be changed. That’s why I have the position I do.

— Councilman at Large Jason Zuckerman

Ordinance 21-39 had been deferred from the September 23rd meeting after debate dragged out almost an hour and the council seemed deadlocked. While discussion tonight was cantankerous at times, the council disposed of the issue in half the time it spent at the last meeting.

The ordinance corrects wording in city code and puts the mayor in the same category as all other full-time city employees with the taxpayers paying their contributions to the state retirement system.

According to state law, the office of mayor is a full-time employee and hence is required to participate in the Municipal Employee Retirement System (MERS). Some cities pay their employees’ contributions, other cities do not. Mandeville is a city that does.

But on November 21, 2019, the previous council voted to cut the mayor’s salary from $114,475 to $94,500, not including benefits.

This came on the heals of the passage of a November 16, 2019, public referendum to change the City Charter, allowing the city council to cut a mayor’s pay. Before the referendum, the council could only vote to raise the salary of a mayor.

The problem was, Ordinance 19-33 used flawed legal language, saying the “Mayor may participate” in MERS, which needs to be corrected to read the “Mayor shall participate,” putting it inline with state law.

Mayor Clay Madden served as a council member on the 2019 City Council and he went on record at the September 23rd council meeting to say that the 2019 council did not make a mistake because they were unaware at the time that the mayor is legally considered a full-time employee.

Councilman at Large Jason Zuckerman, District I Councilwoman Rebecca Bush, and District III Councilwoman Jill McGuire voted in favor. They generally agreed that one full-time employee shouldn’t be singled out and not have their benefits paid while all other full-time employees are.

“I don’t see the distinction between the mayor and other full-time employees. By the city charter the mayor is defined as a full-time employee. By state law, which the city attorney’s provided, he’s designated as a full-time employee,” Zuckerman said.

Zuckerman made it clear that he felt the 2019 City Council made a mistake with Ordinance 19-33 and it is the duty of the current council to fix it.

“There’s a lot of discussion that’s gone on about the interpretation of the previous council and what they intended. This council’s here now and this council has the ability to go back and look and see if what they did makes sense or not and use our best judgment and not necessarily just rely on the fact that everything that they did was ‘all-wise’ and ‘all-knowing,’” he added.


RELATED EDITORIAL: OPINION: Previous City Council created ‘nuclear option’ to use against sitting mayor


The 2019 council included two candidates for the 2020 mayor’s race, Lauré Sica and current mayor Madden. Sica and Madden both held at-large seats and were the driving force behind cutting the mayor’s pay and benefits and the public referendum that made it possible. Sica was serving as the council chairperson when 19-33 was adopted, but Madden supported and voted in favor of it.

Zuckerman questioned the motivation behind Ordinance 19-33 and how it related to the approaching 2020 mayor’s race at the time.

“I have a lot of questions about the original ordinance (Ordinance 19-33) itself that was passed and the timeline of its passage, and the fact that it affected people that were running for office (of mayor) at the time, people on the council were running (for mayor). There’s a lot that went around that original ordinance that, you know, I think it’s this council’s duty to look at it and make our best judgment and our best decision.”


Because of the mistake made by Madden and the 2019 City Council, the argument could be made that the mayor ended up making 10% less than he thought he would when he ran for the office.

Councilman at Large Rick Danielson and District II Councilman Skelly Kreller voted against Ordinance 21-39. Kreller said he believed that Madden knew exactly what he was voting for as a council member back in 2019 and intended to limit the total compensation of the mayor moving forward to $94,500. Danielson and Kreller view this ordinance as a 10% pay increase to the mayor.

Kreller — after insisting the mayor is not a full-time employee at previous meetings — acknowledged at the October 14th meeting that the chief executive is actually a full-time employee but that there is nothing wrong with making the mayor pay their retirement contributions.

“The mayor is a full-time employee of Mandeville, but he also is an elected official, so we’re not singling out an employee… We’re not singling him out… and he can be treated differently,” he said.

Kreller cited nearby cities and towns such as New Orleans, Kenner, Covington, Abita Springs and others, comparing their compensation packages and populations against Mandeville in an effort to illustrate that Mandeville is paying is over-compensating its mayor.

At one point, Kreller repeatedly referred to Madden as the council chairman in 2019 during the passage of Ordinance 19-33. However, Madden was not the council chairperson; Sica was.

Danielson said his opposition to 21-39 had nothing to do with the current mayor. He said the previous council was specific that the mayor would be responsible for paying their share if they opted to participate.

“This has nothing to do with the current mayor whatsoever… the job he’s doing or not doing… I think he’s doing a fantastic job… I think the entire city administration, the 98 employees that work for this city, and the five city council members are doing a fantastic job,” Danielson said.


In their own words

Because Mandeville Daily wishes to accurately relate each council member’s exact position on the issue, we have included most of the transcript from the discussion relating to Ordinance 21-39 during the October 14th meeting below:

33:17

McGuire:

“Well since I was the one that deferred it… I should probably… We discussed this during the budget process and during that time I did my — well I thought I did my homework — and I spoke with the former councilmen and spoke with the … finance director and confirmed that … he does have to participate (MERS)… When they, the former council, was doing this they looked, they compared salaries and benefit packages to other municipalities and there was a lot of information that was brought up at the last meeting. A lot of very good points were made. I believe it sparks, I feel, a need to discuss lots of things regarding the employees’ retirement — should the city pay their share.

“So there’s lots of things I believe we need to discuss and address soon, however, I don’t feel this is the time for it. I feel that there’s lots of things, right? We can discuss intent, we discuss what they were thinking (2019 City Council). We can clean it up, what have you. I think it’s… I went around the world and I came back to where I was in the beginning, and it is, the mayor is a legal — according to the legal definition — a full-time employee as well as it also states that in the charter, and the city pays for — whether we agree with it or not, and we can discuss that later — we pay for every other employee’s share of retirement so therefore I’m in support of the mayor receiving that same benefit as well.”

35:50

Kreller:

“The mayor is a full-time employee of Mandeville… But he also is an elected official, so we’re not singling out an employee… We’re not singling him out… and he can be treated differently…

“The only thing that really needs to be changed is that word in the first sentence. But the second sentence is very specify… it says that he will pay his percentage of the retirement.

“Businesses do not pay 100% of retirement for their employees. I have mentioned that I was in business for 38 years. I paid my portion and the employees paid their portion. Yes there are exceptions, but not many.

“And this has nothing to do with this council trying to change the police or anything like this in civil service. This has only to do with the mayor. And it doesn’t have anything to do with the salary of the mayor.

“I have not changed my position on this. He is a special case… He is not an ‘employee’ that has to be linked and lumped together with all the other employees of the city.

“I have not changed my position.”

Zuckerman:

“I don’t see the distinction between the mayor and other full time employees. By the city charter the mayor is defined as a full-time employee. By state law, which the city attorney’s provided, he’s designated as a full-time employee.

“There’s a lot of discussion that’s gone on about the interpretation of the previous council and what they intended. This council’s here now and this council has the ability to go back and look and see if what they did makes sense or not and use our best judgment and not necessarily just rely on the fact that everything that they did was ‘all-wise’ and ‘all-knowing.’

“I have a lot of questions about the original ordinance (Ordinance 19-33) itself that was passed and the timeline of its passage, and the fact that it affected people that were running for office (of mayor) at the time, people on the council were running (for mayor). There’s a lot that went around that original ordinance that, you know, I think it’s this council’s duty to look at it and make our best judgment and our best decision.

“I think that all of those things. That Mrs. McGuire brought up and even Dr. Kreller brought up… whether the city ought to be paying 100% of employees’ portions of retirement… all valid questions, and I know he’s got strong opinions about that…

“I look forward to any proposals, Dr. Kreller, that you bring to change that for the city. I think there are some practical issues in implementing it that we’d have to address. I don’t think it has anything to do with this ordinance and I haven’t changed my position on it, so that’s where I stand.”

40:50

Bush:

“I’ve been pretty consistent… I think I’ve been very consistent on this issue. … I like the idea of the city providing a benefit like that to all employees as I want to attract top talent. To work for the city. I think that’s incredibly important for any business and I think it’s incredibly important for the City of Mandeville.”

Zuckerman: “That’s an excellent point. I agree with Mrs. Bush.”

Kreller:

“To follow that up, how many cities, municipalities, around here pay 100% for retirement for the mayor?”

(Asks council clerk, who said she hadn’t researched it except back in 2019 when no other municipalities paid 100%.)

“And I don’t think anything has really changed since then.”

41:57

Danielson:

“This has nothing to do with the current mayor whatsoever… the job he’s doing or not doing… I think he’s doing a fantastic job… i think the entire city administration, the 98 employees that work for this city, and the five city council members are doing a fantastic job. What this has to do with (for) me is Ordinance No. 19-33, which stated two things:

“The mayor’s salary will be set for the full term at $94,500, and the mayor will make the employees’ portion of the contribution. That’s what it is.

“So what I’ve offered in the past, which failed, so I’m not going to offer an amendment tonight, but I want to make it clear for everybody is that that council said the mayor will make that contribution.”

42:44

“What I looked at I said okay, I get it. Year number one, the mayor made the full contribution, 10%. Year two, the city would pay a third, the mayor would pay two thirds. Year three, mayor one third, city two thirds. And at the end, at the fourth year, it’s back to 100%.

“Because what that really goes to is a 10% pay raise, by going from what the mayor was contributing this past year to paying in full is a 10% pay raise. And he is a full-time employee. Totally agree. The rest of our employees that are eligible are getting a 2.5% pay raise. That’s what I looked at.

“That’s why I had offered a third, a third, a third as what I felt to be a fair and equitable correction to an ordinance the previous council made. So I stand by that. I’m not going to make the amendment for it because I know where it’s going to go. But I want to make it very clear on all those points of why I brought up why I did and where I still stand tonight.”

Zuckerman:

“My position on this really has nothing to do … with the current mayor either.

“For me, I’m looking at the original ordinance. I don’t think it’s inappropriate at all for a current council to go in and look at what a previous council did and pass judgment on whether that needs to be changed or not. I think that’s why we’re elected.

“So I don’t think the decision they originally made with regard to that was appropriate. I don’t think the timing of it was appropriate… Look… the mayor voted for it… and as much as I’d like to make somebody live with the decisions and a position they took on something, I’m separating the person from the issue and I just feel strongly it needs to be changed. That’s why I have the position I do.”

44:48

Kreller:

“Also the mayor was the chair of that council and he has mentioned in the past that there might have been a little misunderstanding that maybe he didn’t understand completely and things like this… As the chair and who put up this ordinance 19-33, he should have went (sic) to the city attorneys and talked to them and … got perfectly clear what he was presenting to the council and what the vote was. And remember, the vote was 5-0. But he was the chair, and there’s no excuse.

“I can’t see any excuse that anybody could make… That’s shame on him or shame on whoever was the mayor. It doesn’t make a difference, okay?

“What makes a difference here is, one, he possibly didn’t know he’d be running for mayor then… two, he might have thought he wouldn’t win, but he knew what he was voting on then.

“And as the chair… he should do the research, and I assume he did the research, and hopefully he talked to the attorneys. I mean, we sure talk to the attorneys.”

Editor’s Note: Councilman Skelly Kreller was factually incorrect when he stated Clay Madden was the Council Chairman when Ordinance 19-33 was introduced and adopted. However, Madden supported and voted in favor of 19-33. Madden was in fact the council chairman when Ordinance 19-11 was introduced and adopted. Ordinance 19-11 was the council’s first attempt to lower future mayors’ salary, which resulted in a lawsuit from sitting mayor Donald Villere, to which the council repealed 19-11 with Ordinance 19-27 and set public referendum to amend the charter.

Zuckerman:

“I actually agree with a lot of that, but the point I was trying to make is that I think the mayor was wrong for voting for it, so I’m here to correct it.

“He did vote for it… but I think it was a bad vote. I think he made a mistake, and I’m voting to change it.”

47:04

Danielson:

“I agree with Mr. Zuckerman on the fact that we have a right to change previous ordinance whatever it might be, and that’s very important and it’s good government that we go and we do some of those things. That’s why I kind of felt that mine was a compromise… that kind of met in the middle on both sides of that thing.

“But I also find it interesting from a financial aspect is that the benefit to the mayor’s compensation on the retirement contribution is about $37,000 a year for a cit of 12,500 people, and when you compare that to the city of New Orleans, if I’m not mistaken, the contribution for the mayor of New Orleans which is almost 250,000, is $35,000… it’s just interesting to me… Is there a bigger question here on what we need to possibly be looking at down the road.”

McGuire:

“Yes.”

47:57

Zuckerman:

“I hear the comparison about size of the city in terms of population all the time and we compare Mandeville to other cities by population and I just got to question whether or not that’s the most appropriate comparison to make.

“I mean, do you take everything that we do in direct proportion to the city of New Orleans? Are there other metrics that we ought to look at cities that we should compare to? Is it quality of life? Should we be looking at cities with a similar quality of life?

“Certainly New Orleans or Hammond or Slidell may not necessarily have the quality the City of Mandeville does. But we’re going to benchmark what we do against those because of population. That doesn’t make sense to me. Should it be the average tax base, what the average citizen pays in revenue, the average number of employees that a municipality has that the mayor has to manage? So … I personally don’t buy into we need to compare to another municipality just based off population. That correlation… I haven’t been able to make that connection yet.”

48:56

Kreller:

“What about not just comparing to New Orleans but let’s compare to Kenner, Slidell, Hammond, Covington and Abita. He (mayor) ranks the highest on all of those cities and municipalities. And so, some of those are definitely compared (sic) to us. “


Other business from meeting

In other business at tonight’s meeting:

MINUTES:
  1. Adoption of the September 23, 2021, Regular Meeting Minutes
REPORTS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS:

To consider and take action with respect to adopting a resolution confirming an election date change pursuant to Executive Order of the Governor; establishing a new date to canvass the returns of the election; and providing for other matters in connection therewith.

PRESENTATION:

Ms. Suzanne Krieger, chairperson of the St. Tammany Levee Drainage and Conservation District, will discuss the proposed Constitutional Amendment # 3 – funding for the Levee District.

OLD BUSINESS:
  1. Adoption of Ordinance No. 21-23: An ordinance amending the official zoning map of the City of Mandeville to rezone the south one half of square seventy-four (74) of the City of Mandeville, st. Tammany parish, state of Louisiana, from pm-2 marina district – non-waterfront lots, to o, open space/recreation; and providing for further matters in connection therewith (COUNCILWOMAN MCGUIRE, DISTRICT III)

Adopted 5-0: Danielson: Yes; McGuire: Yes; Bush: Yes; Kreller: Yes; Zuckerman: Yes

  1. Adoption of Ordinance No. 21-24: An ordinance amending the official zoning map of the City of Mandeville to rezone double square 33, lot 2 of the City of Mandeville, st. Tammany parish, state of Louisiana, from R-3 multi-family residential district, to O, open space/recreation; and providing for further matters in connection therewith (Councilwoman McGuire, District III)

Adopted 5-0: Danielson: Yes; McGuire: Yes; Bush: Yes; Kreller: Yes; Zuckerman: Yes

  1. Adoption of Ordinance No. 21-39: An ordinance of the council of the City of Mandeville amending Section 2-8 of chapter 2 of the City of Mandeville Code of Ordinances and providing for other matters in connection therewith. (Councilman Zuckerman, At-Large)

Adopted 3-2: Danielson: No; McGuire: Yes; Bush: Yes; Kreller: No; Zuckerman: Yes

NEW BUSINESS:
  1. Establish Council meeting dates for the months of November and December

    November 18, 2021 and December 16, 2021 (only one meeting each month due to holidays)

All in favor.

  1. Approval of the special event and liquor application for the Walk a Mile Mandeville 2021 on Saturday, October 30, 2021 from 4-8pm, no rain date. Event location will be from the Mandeville harbor to the Mandeville Trailhead. (Councilwoman McGuire, District III)

All in favor.

  1. Approval of Change Order #1, Trailhead Splash Park Rehabilitation A/E Project No. 2101A06; formerly No. 2001A02 for an increase in contract time by 30 days for a total contract time of 150 days. No Change in dollar amount. (Councilwoman McGuire, District III)

All in favor.

  1. Approval of NTE amount for Hurricane Ida debris removal project pursuant to the Emergency Debris Removal Contract from $1 million to a NTE $5 million (Councilman Zuckerman, At-Large).

All in favor.

  1. Approval of NTE amount for Hurricane Ida debris monitoring project pursuant to the Emergency Debris Monitoring Contract from $250,000 to $850,000 (Councilman Zuckerman, At-Large).

All in favor.

  1. Adoption of Resolution No. 21-44: A Resolution confirming an election date change pursuant to Executive Order of the Governor; establishing a new date to canvass the returns of the election; and providing for other matters in connection therewith. (Councilman Zuckerman, At-Large)

All in favor.

  1. Adoption of Resolution No. 21-45: A resolution of the Mandeville city council endorsing the application of Susan Danielson (551 Carroll Street, Mandeville, Louisiana) for participation in the restoration tax abatement program project no. 2016-1452-RTA(Councilman Zuckerman, At-Large)

All in favor.

  1. Adoption of Resolution No. 21-46: A resolution of the city council of the City of Mandeville accepting the bids for the Monroe at East Causeway intersection & traffic signal improvements project A/E Project No. 20-1956 and authorizing the mayor to execute a contract with the lowest apparent bid Kort’s Construction Services Inc. And providing for other matters in connection therewith (Councilman Kreller, District II)

Amended to add wording about properly moving and relocating trees.

All in favor.

  1. Adoption of Resolution No. 21-47: A resolution of the city council of the City of Mandeville accepting the recommendation of the audit committee to contract with Postlethwaite & Netterville, for the purpose of conducting a financial audit for the City of Mandeville as of and for the year ending august 31, 2021 and authorizing the mayor to execute an agreement and providing for other matters in connection therewith (Councilman Danielson, At-Large)

All in favor.

  1. Introduction of Ordinance No. 21-28: An ordinance of the city council of the City of Mandeville amending the Code of Ordinances, chapter 11, Section 11-64 urinating in public places prohibited; definition; penalty; and providing for other matters in connection therewith: (Councilman Kreller, District II)

To be voted on October 28, 2021.

All in favor.

  1. Introduction of Ordinance No. 21-29: An ordinance of the city council of the City of Mandeville approving a conditional use permit for accessory outdoor seating within the Jefferson Street right of way (Councilwoman McGuire, District III)

To be voted on October 28, 2021.

All in favor.

  1. Introduction of Ordinance No. 21-30: An ordinance of the city council of the City of Mandeville amending the Code of Ordinances, Chapter 10, to include Section 10-73 as a prohibition of parking or traversing on median strip; definition; penalty; and providing for other matters in connection therewith (Councilman Kreller, District II)

To be voted on October 28, 2021.

All in favor.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for October 28th at 6 p.m.

-30-

3 thoughts on “UPDATE: Council restores mayor retirement pay, 3-2

  1. Here’s the Legislative Auditors’ comparison of mayors’ compensation.

    MAYOR SALARY

    City Population 2017 2018 2019 2020
    New Orleans 393,292 164,933 140,000 169,024
    Kenner 97,451 *temp mayor in 2017 45,755 72,502 111,129 111,129
    Slidell 28,013 113,484 119,506 119,506 123,091
    Hammond 20,609 set salary in charter 75,500 75,500 75,500 75,500
    Mandeville 12,424 114,475 114,475 114,475 94,500
    Covington 10,310 cooper/johnson 87,147 90,700 90,669 90,669
    Abita 2,529 set salary in charter 50,000 50,000 51,030 51,030
    LA Governor 130,000

    PROPOSED BENEFITS

    City car cell insurance retirement
    New Orleans 13027 563 9,000 35,461
    Kenner 6,000 0 10,125 30,838
    Slidell 6600 0 15,930 21,112
    Hammond 6000 900 7,183 20,951
    Mandeville 6000 600 9,400 37,328
    Covington 9000 1200 9,300 17,925
    Abita 0 0 0 0

    2021-2022 TOTAL PROPOSED COMPENSATION

    New Orleans $269,985
    Kenner $163,792
    Slidell $185,026
    Hammond $111,462
    Mandeville $147,828
    Covington $137,469
    Abita $51,560

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