MABTON - A request from Mabton's interim city clerk to up the mayor's pay for extra work sorting out the city's financial records prompted a heated discussion at a regularly scheduled city council meeting last night (Tuesday).
Ret Stewart, the interim clerk, told council members, "I hate to see her working like this, 12 to 14 hours every Saturday and Sunday, and not get paid."
Stewart said she checked with a municipal research company, who said it would be legal to pay the mayor for the extra work. She asked council members to consider a contract with mayor Velva Herrera and paying her $15 an hour.
"What you're paying for and what you're getting...I feel guilty taking the money," Stewart added, meaning that Herrera has helped her considerably with no pay.
Councilman Mario Martinez said simply, "I'm against it."
Councilwoman Oping Hutson then asked Stewart what kind of help Herrera was providing. Stewart responded, "A lot of what she does is what a deputy clerk would do."
Martinez said that if Herrera is just pulling files and typing, then perhaps she should just be paid minimum wage. He also said that a plan should have been in place when the decisions were made to fire former city administrator Ildia Jackson and former city clerk Sharon Roy so that the city didn't end up in a position such as this.
"Before we get rid of people, we need to have a plan in place," Martinez said.
Stewart noted that the city was previously paying a "horrendous" amount of money in salaries for things that "weren't getting done," which is why she and Herrera have been putting in so much time.
Martinez said, "I'm going to be against it (paying Herrera) no matter what." He added that he felt the work Herrera has been doing is simply part of her job.
Herrera currently gets paid $500 a month for her work as mayor.
Initially, Councilman Angel Reyna made a motion to allow the city attorney to draft a contract for the mayor to continue to provide services and get paid for it. That was seconded by Councilwoman Vera Zavala. Following the discussion, Zavala voted in favor, while Councilwomen Shelly Mireles and Hutson and Councilmen Martinez and Reyes voted against it.
A motion was then made to revisit the subject matter at the next council meeting.
After the meeting, Zavala said of Herrera, "She's been there (at city hall) for every weekend for the last...I don't know how long."
She said of Herrera, who works a full time night shift job in addition to being Mabton's mayor, "She's missed her grandson playing ball, she doesn't sleep...I don't think anybody should work like that and not be compensated for it. I think they (other council members) are being unfair and they shouldn't be.
"They're (other council members opposed to the pay) just asking her (to do things) way beyond the mayor's scope of duty."
Reyna spoke of the subject matter after the meeting as well. "I think we need to look into it a little more because people are uncomfortable with it.
"I'm not against it. I just need more information," he said.
Reyna was then asked if council members foresaw this kind of work schedule when they previously approved the $500 a month pay to the mayor. He said he didn't believe so.