Voting for pay raise sets bad standard
When public officials give themselves a pay hike, it usually raises a few eyebrows. Congress is pretty notorious about this and everyone goes off every time our Washington politicians pad their salaries.
Locally, the Coweta County Water and Sewerage Authority recently voted to pay its members $500 a month. Previously, their salary was zilch. And this vote was taken about a month after the Coweta County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to not give authority members a raise.
But the authority decided to go ahead and give itself a raise, from zero to $500.
Under state law, county commissioners are allowed to give authority members a raise. They voted not to. However, the law also says authority members – as officers – are allowed to compensate themselves, according to the authority’s attorney.
There are three water authority members, and all three also serve as the three officers on the authority board.
“Our board doesn’t think they did anything against the board of commissioners,” said Melissa Griffis, water authority attorney. “They believe they are following the legislation that is already in place.”
We are not questioning the legality of officers voting to give themselves a raise. Nor do we question the hard work and time these local residents give on a volunteer basis. But we do have to question the appearance and if it’s the “right thing to do.”
Authority members are appointed to the board. They know the pay before agreeing to accept the position, and they can decline a nomination.
No other members of Coweta’s boards or authorities are paid, including those serving on the Coweta County Development Authority, the Coweta County Airport Authority, the Board of Zoning Appeals and the like. Members of the Coweta County Board of Education aren’t paid, either. The county commissioners are.
Water authority members do an important job and oversee a very large budget. We would argue the school board, development authority and other boards and authorities also do important and time-consuming work on a volunteer basis for our community.
Is $500 a month a lot of money for what they do? Absolutely not. But we don’t think one board or authority should vote themselves a raise when others don’t.
No one authority should be different than any other.