Online Petition Urges Repeal of Mayor’s Salary Hike

Trustee Bruce Campbell (L) and Mayor Gallagher

Gallagher calls effort ‘clearly political’ 

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong 

Seeking to rescind Cold Spring Mayor Seth Gallagher’s $2,500 fiscal 2012-13 salary increase, an online petition had generated 107 signatures by Friday afternoon (May 25) as well as claims of impersonation and dubious names. The effort began the week of May 14 and, according to its introduction, “is important because the Board of Trustees gave the mayor a 22 percent pay increase without allowing for public comment.” An elaboration added that “if you live in the Village of Cold Spring, your vote will send a message to the five elected officials that this behavior is unacceptable and contrary to open government.” The update invited “all taxpayers,” throughout the state and beyond, to participate, too. Some did – from Cold Spring and beyond.

Michael Bowman

Michael Bowman, the petition originator, told Philipstown.info Friday afternoon that the burgeoning support “doesn’t surprise me at all. I had dozens of people approach me who were disgusted about the way the pay raise was introduced and pushed through (and that was before the petition). Since the petition that number has exploded.” He said he intends “to keep the petition up until the pay increase is rescinded [by the Village Board]. I also look forward to taking it offline and allowing people without computer access and email to sign as well — either door to door, or in a public place here in Cold Spring.”

Gallagher protested Monday night (May 21) that “the purpose of the petition is clearly political” and that it erroneously asserted the raise occurred without a chance for public input. The petition appears among assorted local-interest posts on a Facebook page for Free Speech Philipstown, though the petition itself falls under the hosting purview of a national group, Change.org, to which Bowman directed questions about signatures.

Questions indeed arose. On Monday one purported signer, Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea, angrily alleged that someone had fraudulently used his name. “I never signed it and have no intention of signing it,” Shea informed Philipstown.info. “This is identity theft.” In a letter to Bowman, he demanded a retraction and said that “whoever added my name to the petition has done so maliciously and is causing damage to my reputation and defaming my character.” Bowman said May 23 that two names had been removed.

In a lengthy rebuttal to the petition, Gallagher stated -– among other things -– that the attempts to enhance mayoral pay began under his predecessor, Anthony Phillips. Thursday morning, the name “Anthony Phillips” appeared on the petition, with a comment: “I believe that if a person needs a salary of this proportion to be a part-time elected official, that person should get a real job. If one is incapable of their position, of course it takes longer. But why should I foot the bill for stupidity?” An attempt to reach Phillips to confirm his signature was unsuccessful.

Gallagher’s rebuttal claimed that Phillips’ real compensation was about $14,200 with the inclusion of unlimited free car gasoline from village tanks (a now-defunct courtesy) and reimbursements for personal-phone use which, he said, “New York Law does not allow.”

Gallagher also noted that the impetus for boosting mayoral pay began with former Trustee Gordon Robertson — a frequent Gallagher critic. In February 2009, acknowledging the long hours Phillips put in, Robertson proposed that the trustees give up half of their salaries to boost the mayor’s pay. The trustees – who then included Gallagher – made about $7,000 each, so Robertson’s proposal would have increased the mayoral salary to about $24,000. Although that did not happen, the idea of more pay for the mayor slowly took hold. In 2010, a year after becoming mayor, Gallagher recommended that the mayor’s pay be increased by $5,000 but that the raise not kick in until after the March 2011 mayoral election. Gallagher won the 2011 race and several weeks later the Village Board increased his pay by $2,500 for the 2011-12 fiscal year. The board then voted again this year, on April 24, to increase the pay by the remaining $2,500. The new village budget, including Gallagher’s salary (raise included), takes effect June 1. With the $2,500 raise, Gallagher’s total compensation package comes to $15,162, which consists of $11,621 in base salary; $1,041 for a committee chairmanship (the same amount trustees get for chairing key committees), and a $2,500 stipend as village budget officer. The 22 percent figure comes from combining Gallagher’s old base salary of $9,120 and $2,500 budget officer stipend and multiplying by 22/100.  Key village officials make more than the mayor. In 2012-13, the village clerk will earn $47,019, the accountant $54,630, the highway foreman $76,500, and the water-sewer superintendent $96,000.

Gallagher objected that the petition “states falsely that the Board of Trustees gave the mayor a 22 percent pay increase without allowing for public comment.” Although the board voted on the raise on April 24, the issue initially came up on April 17, at the Village Board public hearing on the new budget. At that session, Trustee Bruce Campbell suggested a mayoral pay hike, along with various other adjustments to the draft 2012-13 budget. In the subsequent public comment period that night, Bowman opposed the increase. “Elected officials shouldn’t be looking at raises when you’re going to raise health-care costs for employees,” he emphasized.

Gallagher said that “I would appreciate the two-thousand raise, but it’s not included in the budget. It could be added.” It was, a week later, as the board made last-minute changes before approving the budget.

The petition introduction juxtaposes the mayor’s salary against employee benefit burdens, stating that “this raise was granted literally right after the mayor had asked village employees to assume more of their health-benefit costs.” During Village Board budget-setting sessions, Gallagher said that employees would receive a small pay raise to help cushion an increase in their portion of health insurance. Under the new budget, employees will pay 5 percent of the insurance premium –- with taxpayers picking up the other 95 percent.

Bowman dismissed criticism of the petition and said Friday that while the number of supporters did not surprise him, elected officials’ reactions did, including “threats of defamation of character.” Such remarks “show that our elected officials don’t understand that they answer to the voters and taxpayers, and that it is our duty as citizens to hold them accountable for their actions,” he said.
Photo by L.S.Armstrong


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6 thoughts on “Online Petition Urges Repeal of Mayor’s Salary Hike

  1. With the village population just under 3K, this salary increase amounts to less than $1 per person per year.

  2. Using Ms. Murphy’s math, the Village could afford an unlimited number of $2,500 raises, until the Mayor was making what he feels is fair. Hey, it’s only a $1 a person. That type of justification is popular in Washington. The real impetus behind the petition is that neither you nor I had the opportunity to question the Village Board in regards to the 22% increase. The public hearing I attended on the budget was closed with no increase for the Mayor (April 17th).

    Not until a week later (April 24th), with nobody in the audience, did this matter spring up. Luckily, the budget officer had left enough extra money in the budget to accommodate it. Last time I asked around, $2,500 was still a lot of money to a lot of people. We’ve already given into one $2,500 (25%) raise in 2011, now another $2500 (22%) raise in 2012. What’s next?

  3. I was with my Spanish friend Pedro and we were talking about government and other matters, such as the price of our favorite beverage. This topic came up. After some thought my friend said, “Oh, I get it, Mr. Tony. If all the people in America gave just $1 to President Obama, his pay would be about $350 million a year. I am liking this country more and more.” I explained that figure probably did not include illegal — I mean, undocumented — people and the amount would be more. He said “I think I would rather keep my dollar.” We have both concluded that it was not a great idea.

  4. Using the logic advanced by Joanne Murphy, then President Barrack Obama should be paid about $ 300 million, which is less than $ 1 per person per year.

    The debate is both about the substance and the form of how this came about, not merely a static dollar amount.

  5. For it’s size, Cold Spring is rare in the amount of public services that need management and oversight. Water and Sewer Dept., Highway Dept., Police, are all overseen by the Mayor. In most communities with that much going on, there is a Town Manager hired at competitive salaries.
    The Office of the Mayor has been underpaid for years. There is a great deal of work involved in doing the job well. Unless someone is independently wealthy or on a large pension, taking the position is economically not feasible. Do we want to have to rely only on those who don’t have to earn a living wage to manage our Village?
    I see the usual critics of the Mayor lining up to make this a huge issue, but I personally feel that the work it takes to successfully run this busy Village deserves real compensation.

  6. It is expected to have this answer from life long. The mayor and all of the trustees have not been able to justify the raise. Instead you a life-long supporter attempt to rationalize or justify the 47 percent raise. The mayor is creating his own situation. The arguments being made do not hold water — the Village of Mammaroneck is larger in scope and budget and last I checked they earned less than village officials here. Seth is trying to turn this into a full-time with benefits. He can continue to work at it part time or quit. That salary requirements were clearly stipulated.

    Where is the response from the elected officials who made this happen? What was their motivation? They forget that there is an election coming up. If BC is looking to run for trustee or mayor like he has stated to many of us privately then he should re-examine this position and review the legality of the vote. Mayor you hid this from the public! Glad that there are residents who understand that you are out of control. You did not put this on the agenda! Maybe the mayor could not because he knows the controversy it will beckon. Instead, he puts it out through his minion BC. Try managing openly, if you’re capable.

    Why is it that when the dock lights were voted on, yet only Stephanie Hawkins and Andrew Chmar were in attendance? Mr. Chmar never appears unless there is something on the agenda he is pitching. To this day there is no record of it. Why? The special people knew, the rest of the community did not. Pathetic dictatorship move. Demonstrates your lack of leadership because you do not have the confidence to deal with the fall out.

    Two months later and the salary issue is still lingering. Why, because the Mayor you stole from the residents their vote of confidence and now our money. You should resign effective immediately. But your ego does not permit it. Next as for Mr. Heffernan’s quip that you have to be wealthy to do it for free, no just honest in that you knew what the salary was. If you’re not making enough money, get a real job that supplements what you are not doing now. You created your own situation and now we have to bail you out. You do not deserve it.