(The Center Square) – Members of the Pittsburgh City Council met behind closed doors for a special session to give themselves a 6% raise, a reduction from a previously proposed 22% raise that drew blowback from the public.
The nine-member council met in closed session on the last day for budget adjustments Saturday, following a meeting Tuesday in which the council froze its pay pending a review by the city solicitor over whether a proposed $16,000 raise violated the city’s home rule charter, KDKA reported.
The charter reportedly limits pay raises for elected officials to the average raise for all city workers, and councilors discussed the situation behind closed doors before taking a vote without discussion in open session.
“In one of the most bizarre procedures I have ever witnessed, city council votes 9-0 to raise their pay 6% to $76,544 without ever noting the subject of the amendment or any discussion at all,” KDKA’s Jon Delano posted to Twitter on Saturday. “All of the discussion was behind closed doors so the public could not hear it.”
The council approved a 22% raise in December to $88,000 a year as part of former Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s 2022 budget, but City Controller Michael Lamb pointed out language in the city charter that reads: “No elected city official shall receive a salary increase that exceeds the average percentage increase in salaries and wages paid to all city employees as based on the previous year’s salary,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Lamb said the average increase was around 3% for city workers last year.
Council President Theresa Kail-Smith claimed during Saturday’s special session that “after speaking with our law department, the salary $76,544 is in compliance with the home rule charter,” according to media reports.
Two residents spoke out about the raises during public comments Saturday.
“You know better. Knowing the charter is government 101,” former city council candidate Judith Ginyard said, according to the Post-Gazette. “Each of you who voted for this should be impeached.”
Another unidentified resident told councilors “you know what the home rule charter is.”
“You know the laws. For this to happen was definitely part of you being corrupt,” the resident said, the news site reported. “It’s very disgusting. It’s a violation of public trust.”
Kail-Smith previously defended the massive 22% raise during KDKA’s Marty Griffin radio show last month.
“I’m going to say this over and over again. I advocated for this. I think our members earned their pay raise,” she said. “It has been 20 years since they’ve had a significant raise.”