Mandeville City Council votes to reduce salary of next mayor despite Villere’s objections

BY SARA PAGONES

Apr 26, 2019 – 10:06 am

When the next mayor of Mandeville takes office in July 2020, he or she will earn considerably less in salary and benefits than the current mayor, Donald Villere.

In a move that supporters argued would better align Mandeville with other local governments, the City Council voted unanimously Thursday to reduce the mayor’s salary from $114,475 to $94,500 — less than Slidell Mayor Greg Cromer, who earns $119,506, but more than Covington Mayor Mike Cooper, whose salary is $90,700.

The next Mandeville mayor’s overall compensation package will be $135,000, down from $196,447. That includes a $6,000 vehicle allowance, a $600 phone allowance and contributions to retirement, health insurance and life insurance plans.

Councilman Mike Pulaski, who co-sponsored the ordinance with Councilwoman Lauré Sica, said the council had been looking at the issue for some time and viewed the pay for Mandeville’s chief executive as “out of sync” with other municipalities in the region.

Mandeville has a population of 12,000, he said, but its mayor earns more than those of much larger cities like Kenner, which pays its mayor $111,129, Hammond and Slidell.

Villere, who is term-limited, objected to the change. He said he didn’t agree with the council’s numbers, saying that they were not doing an “apples to apples” comparison. He also argued that the City Council does not have the authority to reduce the mayor’s pay.

Pulaski said the city’s charter is ambiguous on the issue of authority. It states that the mayor’s salary “shall be the same as the salary of the incumbent mayor at the time the charter becomes effective.”

When the charter went into effect in 1985, the mayor’s salary was $25,000, Pulaski said.

The charter does say that the council can, by ordinance, increase the mayor’s salary, but “there is no provision to decrease it,” Pulaski said.

“It also doesn’t say you can’t,” Councilman Clay Madden said.

Pulaski said the charter could be interpreted as resetting the salary to $25,000 every four years unless the council votes to increase it.

The ordinance before the council originally rolled back the salary even more, to $92,500. But Sica said that because it will not take effect for more than a year, the figure should be increased to $94,500, and her amendment passed unanimously.

“We are more similar (in size) to Covington, and this is a little higher than Covington,” Sica said.

Councilman John Keller wondered whether the steep drop in salary will discourage people from running for mayor.

“The salary shouldn’t be the reason people run for mayor,” Pulaski said.

“It is, though,” Villere retorted.

Pulaski said that public service should be the main motivation of mayoral candidates.

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“I think y’all are running down the wrong road here,” Villere said. “You don’t have the authority to do this. You should have asked for an attorney general’s opinion. The (new) mayor has to be paid at least what the outgoing mayor is paid.”

Council research showed that the mayor’s pay has been going up almost every year since 2000, but in 2011, the first year Villere was mayor, the salary was reduced, from $101,000 to $98,700.

Villere did not get a raise in the current fiscal year, and it’s not clear whether the next budget will include a salary increase.

 

 

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