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Pittsburgh City Council President Freezes 22 Percent Pay Increase Pending Legal Review

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- KDKA's political editor Jon Delano was the first to report that Pittsburgh City Council's 22 percent pay raise may have violated the city's home rule charter.

On Tuesday morning, addressing the council, President Theresa Kail-Smith announced that the council was freezing its pay hike pending further legal review of that issue.

"What I am asking our clerk to do is freeze our pay increase until we have an opportunity to have a legal opinion to clarify any miscommunications or any misunderstandings about the budget," Kail-Smith said.

Kail-Smith put a hold on a $16,000 pay raise that council voted itself without public discussion last December.

City Controller Michael Lamb claims a 22 percent pay raise violates the city's home rule charter which reads, in part, "No elected city official shall receive a salary increase that exceed the average percentage of increase in salaries and wages paid to all city employees as based on the previous year's salary." [Home Rule Chart, Article 3, Section 310 (h)]

Delano: Have city employees received a 22 percent pay in their pay last year?

Lamb: Of course not. The average increase last year was somewhere around 3 percent.

Kail-Smith said the council will meet with budget officials, its own attorney and the city solicitor to determine whether a pay hike from $72,000 to $88,000 violates the city charter.

"This council has never wanted to jeopardize or go against the city charter," Kail-Smith said. "We took an oath to uphold it, and that's what we intend to do. And if it turns out we go back to $72,000, that's what we'll do."

Kail-Smith defended the original approval process, saying the raise came from the Peduto administration, not the council.

"It was not initiated, did not come from this council. The legislation was not from us. It came in the budget, which was televised, printed, shared publicly," she said.

Of course, the council did vote on it and added another $5,000 to the pay hike by transferring an expense account into salary, which Lamb said means they will no longer need to submit actual expense vouchers to get it.

All this is now on hold, pending legal review, which could be held in executive session – privately – as early as Wednesday afternoon.

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