City Solicitor Colleen Mejia has ruled that the $25,000 annual salary that the board of aldermen proposed for the members of the charter-mandated new city council – which will take office in January 2014 – “failed to pass by the required two-thirds margin” and thus the legislation is null and void.
Mejia explained her legal ruling in an appearance before the common council Monday night.
Though the aldermen voted recently 4-3 in favor of the controversial $25,000 salary, a minimum of five affirmative votes are needed to meet the legally required two-thirds level of approval.
The city solicitor said the new city charter, under its transitional provisions, states that a two-thirds vote is required on mayoral and council salary issues.
However, Mejia said it was unclear whether the charter meant two-thirds of the whole city council (aldermen/council combined) or two-thirds of each body.
Thus, she turned to Chapter 44 of the Mass. General Laws for guidance and determined that a two-thirds affirmative vote of each body – the common council and also the board of aldermen – is required.
As a result, the city solicitor declared that the aldermen “had failed to pass” the salary measure despite voting 4-3 for it.
Mejia’s ruling, in effect, invalidates the proposed ordinance.
As a result, Council President D.J. Napolitano told his colleagues that the council had nothing before it to vote on since the aldermen technically had not passed the salary legislation.
The enactment process to set the salary for the 11 members of the restructured city council that will be seated a year from January will now have to be restarted from scratch.
At this stage, the controversial $25,000 plan appears to be a dead issue because it needs five votes to pass and already one of its four prior supporters, Ald. Robert Van Campen, has publicly renounced his vote.
It is expected that the finance committee’s standing recommendation in favor of a $15,000 a year salary for the new city council will re-emerge.
It was this more modest proposal – which Van Campen is now pledging to support – that was brushed aside in favor of the $25,000 salary proposed by Ald. Michael Marchese.
However, there is some speculation that a “compromise” figure in the area of $20,000 a year might also be considered.
Current council members get $5,500 a year, while aldermen are paid $7,200.
As for the new salary for the next mayor, the council Monday night voted unanimously in favor of hiking the chief executive’s annual pay from $85,000 to $115,000.
The boost in mayoral pay also got a unanimous vote of endorsement from the aldermen recently.
If, as expected, the measure receives a required second vote of approval from both the council and aldermen, the hike in salary for the mayor will take effect in January of 2014 when the mayor’s term will increase from two to four years.