Staggered pay raises for DeKalb commissioners taken off table

A legislative proposal that would have delayed a 60 percent pay increase for some DeKalb commissioners has been pulled from consideration.

The House Rules Committee voted Tuesday to remove language from Senate Bill 430 that prohibits county commissioners from voting for and receiving a salary hike during their current terms. That language was added to the bill earlier this month at the request of Sen. Fran Millar, an Atlanta Republican who represents part of DeKalb County.

Millar said he was upset by the size of the pay increase and the way commissioners approved it. The salary issue was not on the agenda published in advance and was not discussed prior to the vote being taken. The only public notice was in the form of legal ads. The new salaries are set to go into effect Jan. 1.

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The House Governmental Affairs Committee voted March 14 in favor of an amendment to SB 430 that amounted to putting the raises on ice for the DeKalb commissioners until after they run for re-election. By that time, there were already concerns being raised that most of the commissioners who would wait the longest are females and that county commissions were being treated differently than other agencies.

“You have disparate treatment in the way those commissioners would be compensated,” said Rep. Bob Trammell, D-Luthersville. “We should also note that is different than the way that cities would be treated under the code.”

DeKalb commissioners have faced criticism ever since the February vote to boost their pay from $40,530 to $64,637 annually.

If Millar’s proposal had become law, only commissioners Jeff Rader, Larry Johnson and Gregory Adams would have been eligible for the increase on Jan. 1 because they are up for re-election this fall. Steve Bradshaw, Nancy Jester, Kathie Gannon and Mereda Davis Johnson wouldn’t have seen more money until 2021 because they aren’t up for re-election until 2020.

Millar said Tuesday that he remains bothered by the pay raise issue and had hoped to change it.

It “would be vindictive if it just applied to DeKalb, and that was not my point,” he said via text message. “The amount is still outrageous.”

Although it appears the General Assembly won't block the raises, a separate challenge is pending. Ed Williams, who qualified to run against Adams, has filed an ethics complaint accusing commissioners of violating the law when they voted on the pay increase.

The DeKalb Board of Ethics has not decided if there is probable cause to investigate Williams’ complaint.

-- Reporter Mark Niesse contributed to this report.


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