The term ‘public servant’ was once a title of pride and honor as people chose to serve in elected offices with the main purpose to help their constituents.
But sometimes today the definition becomes blurred.
We say that in light of the conflict in the city of Farrell where some of the elected council members wanted to grant themselves a huge pay increase. The proposal would have boosted council salaries by 40 percent and the mayor by 60 percent.
Luckily, the increase failed because the vote ended in a 3-3 tie since council member Annette Morrison was absent. Gene Pacsi, Bob Burich and the Rev. Stephen Bennefield voted against the measure, while approval was given by Mayor Olive McKeithan, Kimberly Doss and Stephanie Sheffield.
Hopefully when Morrison returns she’ll wisely join the dissenters and vote down the raise, which would grant a boost from $250 to $350 a month for council members and the mayor – a ceremonial position in a city-manager form of government – from $450 to $750. Or better yet, those seeking the raise will realize the folly of their ways.
To even seek an increase is a questionable decision. The city is in Act 47 as a “distressed community” by state standards. Employees have forgone raises or have had minimal increases for several years.
Or course the raises, if approved, wouldn’t go into effect until the current elected officials are up for re-election. At that time, there’s a good chance that voters would boot them out of office for approving the raise.
We cite Farrell because that is only the most recent problem that has come up concerning pay and/or benefits for elected officials. There was a flap concerning Sharon City Council a few years ago when it was learned that they received health benefits on top of their salaries.
In addition, a letter published in The Herald this week pointed out that our state legislators are overpaid because they are more like part-time employees. The writer stated: “... if the legislators want to be compensated as full-time employees, their work week should be 50 weeks per year with 40 hours per week the minimum time to be on duty.”
But it’s not just pay disputes that lead us to wonder why our so-called “public servants” don’t perform in a way that best suits the people. Another example came about with the Hermitage School Board recently when it came to replacing a board member who had resigned.
The vote ended in a 4-4 tie. After no member was willing to change his or her vote, that meant it has to go to the Mercer County Common Pleas Court and our judges must waste time interviewing and picking someone to fill that position.
The people in Hermitage and the taxpayers from all of Mercer County deserve better than that.
Hey, flip a coin, people. We would think that either of the top two candidates could do a good job.
Everyone who serves as an elected official at every level should take a hard look into why they serve. We agree with Burich when he commented: “If you’re running for city council for the money, you might as well stay home.”
The same goes for other elected offices as well.