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City council to reconsider pay raises
Mayor fears new vote will weaken leadership
Keith Jenkins - photo by File photo
The Hinesville City Council will reconsider its decision to raise the mayor’s and council members’ salaries at a regular meeting Aug. 5.
Council members Keith Jenkins (District 4) and Charles Frasier (District 1) brought the topic up for discussion during the city’s planning workshop Thursday on St. Simons Island.
Jenkins and Frasier said in the weeks following the council’s April vote to raise salaries, they have spoken to Hinesville residents and business owners. They have reconsidered their votes and both agree the amount of the raises was too high.
“I have to ask myself, ‘If I’m re-elected, do I deserve that kind of money?’” Jenkins said. “And the answer is no.” He added he would sign a promise not to take the proposed raise if re-elected. Jenkins also commended fellow council member Kenneth Shaw (District 5) for voting against the raises in April. Shaw was the only council member to oppose the salary increases.
“People should have the right to change their minds,” Frasier said. He stated he does not make decisions based on electability, and said if he has made the wrong decision “I will do what I can to rectify it.”
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas reminded Jenkins and Frasier they twice voted for the raises and did not debate the amount of the increases either time. Thomas added Shaw may have opposed the raise in April, but pointed out Shaw voted for the increase the first time.

Thomas told council members he would place the issue back on the agenda if they wished. He stressed the next administration could reduce the mayor’s and council members’ salaries. He strongly advised the council to be consistent in its decision making.
“If we as a body can’t make decisions and stick to them the public will not trust us,” Thomas said. “The amount of money is immaterial. The issue is consistency in council’s decision making. Leadership is the issue. We lead because they expect us to lead.”
Reversing the salary increase may even set a worrisome precedent for other Georgia cities, he continued.
“I’ve talked to GMA, I’ve talked to the attorney general’s office — it affects home rule,” the mayor said. “You don’t want to change something that allows the state to come in and change a permanent rule.”
Jenkins disagreed, saying he understood the situation to be the opposite, referring to an attempt by state officials to introduce legislation to cap the city’s raises back in April. State Reps. Al Williams, D-Midway, and Terry Barnard, R-Glennville, had introduced a bill to amend Hinesville’s city charter, limiting the amount of raises for elected officials to no more than a five percent raise at one time. The bill did not move forward.  
State officials stepped back from the issue because they were content to let the city come to a consensus on its own, Williams confirmed Friday.
The council first approved raising the mayor and council members’ salaries Jan. 7, after reconvening from an executive session, and then re-took the vote in early April after residents objected to the first vote being taken out of the public eye.
If the council votes not to reduce the raises, the mayor’s salary will increase from $15,000 to $40,000 and the council members’ salaries from $7,500 to $20,000. The present council and mayor will not benefit from the salary increases. The raises will go into effect in 2012, when a new administration is voted into office.
In other news, Hinesville City Council Member Bobby Ryan (District 2) stepped down to campaign for Liberty County Sheriff. A special election will need to be held to fill the empty council seat. Ryan did not attend the city planning workshop held Wednesday through Friday at Sea Palms Golf & Tennis Resort on St. Simons Island.

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