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Raise proposal for city clerk fails to find support with Marion council

Mayor and council appear to have discussed plan extensively behind closed doors at July 18 city council meeting

After two rounds of discussion on the part of Marion’s mayor and city council members, a proposed raise for City Clerk Laura Hinton appears to have stalled. The final item on the council’s agenda for its Monday night, July 18 meeting was titled “Increase proposal.” Before taking the item up, the council withdrew into an extended executive session. Alabama’s open meetings law allows for a city council to discuss certain topics— including the good name and character of an individual or pending legal matters with the city attorney—behind closed doors in an executive session.

The session lasted nearly an hour before the council returned to the table. That night, Mayor Dexter Hinton asked the council for a motion to “approve the financial proposal.”

When no motion appeared forthcoming, Hinton asked the council if there were any questions about the proposal before making the motion himself.

“The motion’s still there,” he said. No council member offered a second, and Hinton declared the motion dead. He asked the council to take up the proposal in a work session the following Monday, July 25.

In the work session Monday night, the mayor and council further discussed the increase proposal. This was the first time the governing body had publicly acknowledged what the proposal actually entailed— a salary increase of around $17,000 for City Clerk Laura Hinton.

The city currently pays Hinton $48,000 a year as salary for the position. The proposal would have increased that to $65,000 a year.

City Council member Joe Pearson said he was opposed to the increase. “I think she’s more than well-compensated now,” he said.

Hinton offered the council a data sheet he had compiled, listing salaries and positions he said other comparable cities maintained.

Some cities of similar size to Marion, he said, would employ a clerk as well as a Human Resources director, assistant clerk, and additional employees to do jobs he said Laura Hinton was doing now.

In a sense, Mayor Hinton said, the council could either increase the clerk’s compensation in light of the many hats the position is required to wear, or it could explore hiring additional employees in city hall to help take some of the load off of the clerk.

Mayor Hinton said that, because of the additional grants the city would receive due to the clerk’s work, the city would not have to pay for the salary increase out of taxpayer funds.

“The [grant] management funds would keep the taxpayers from paying,” he said.

The proposal found little support among the council, which has often grappled with tight city finances over the past year and a half. Hinton reiterated his reasoning for the proposed increase, but still found no support among the council members.

“Are we going to talk about this every week?” said Pearson. “I’m tired of you holding us hostage as a city for this.”

Council member Jeff Nail, following the work session this week, said the city’s employees did deserve a raise, in light of inflation.

“But raises should be done in a systematic way. The city should have a uniform salary schedule for its employees rather than giving raises piecemeal,” he said.

Nail said he felt the proposal as presented didn’t include adequate financial information for the council to make an informed decision.