FAIRLAWN: A resolution raising the hourly rate of the city’s law director narrowly passed at Monday night’s city council meeting. The resolution, which passed 4-3, increases Law Director Edward J. Riegler hourly rate from $100 to $125.
The law director, who handles the city’s legal issues, is also paid a $15,000 retainer fee. This covers attending city council and committee meetings. His hourly rates cover any responsibilities outside the retainer fee designations. Despite some disagreements among board members, Mayor William Roth is confident the city is making the right decision.
“It’s been 13 years since that rate was adjusted,” Roth said.
Roth said it was a valid reason for raising the law director’s hourly rate. He understands it is a complex issue, but is optimistic that this is a fair decision worthy of the democratic process.
A few council members disagreed.
Ward 2 councilwoman Barbara Potts, Ward 5 councilwoman Susan E. Sullivan and Ward 6 councilwoman Kathleen Baum all voted against the measure.
Although they said they have no qualms with Riegler’s performance as law director, they are skeptical about paying him more considering he is only a part- time employee.
“He has no overhead,” Potts said.
Potts said his life in the city doesn’t call for a pay increase. She highlights his rent-free office, his free telephone, copying, and paper. In the end she simply said he has “free everything.” Also, for Potts, paying him more money isn’t a productive move, especially since the city has the tendency to hire outside lawyers for more serious issues.
“For anything special that comes up we’re hiring an attorney,” Potts said.
But his part-time status was the largest issue for the dissenting council members. Potts is even concerned that this could have a negative impact on the psyche of city employees in the future.
“This year we’re having labor negotiations with all the unions,” Potts said. “Do you think they’re going to get a 25 percent raise?”
Sullivan was adamant about her disapproval with this resolution. Her stance is more related to residents living within her ward, and how she will explain this once the final changes are complete. They even brought out some numbers referencing his change in pay.
According to a list of legal fees in 2012 provided by Councilwoman Kathleen Baum, Riegler made a total $101,775. He is slated to make an estimated $131,437.50 said Baum.
“I can’t rationalize this to my constituents,” Sullivan said. “When this comes out, I don’t want to be a part of it, because I can’t justify it.”
Mayor Roth, however, remains convinced raising the law director rates is a good choice. He said, “it’s been time to do it, it’s long overdue.”
“He only gets paid for hours that he actually works,” Roth said. “But legal fees are always a hot topic, I don’t care where you go, that’s just the way it is.”