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Pay hike for mayor under consideration

MABTON – “We’re the only city in the state of Washington that doesn’t have a public works director or city administrator,” Mabton Mayor Mario Martinez told the city council last night.

In an appeal to council Tuesday night, Martinez says he fills those and the finance director roles. He feels wearing all those hats merits additional pay.

“We’ve got a good team, I don’t have a problem doing it,” he said of the extra tasks. “But it takes a lot of time.”

Martinez noted there are examples of cities – such as Prosser - who hire their mayors to serve in other administrative roles.

The Mabton mayor’s post currently comes with a monthly salary of $500. Martinez proposes a monthly salary of $2,000 for the 50 hours a week he works in administrative roles for the city. He is not seeking employee benefits.

Councilwoman Sophia Sotelo questioned whether the city could afford the additional salary.

Another councilwoman, Vera Zavala, expressed concern about the additional pay being carried over to future mayors.

Martinez replied the city needs a full-time administrator with projects underway for both water and sewer improvements. “It’s a seven-day-a-week job,” he said.

He contends the only alternative other than hiring him is to bring in a city administrator or public works director at an annual cost of about $100,000 each. “If we did that we’d have to lay people off,” Martinez said, noting by contrast his administrative salary of $24,000 would still allow the city to retain all its staff.

Martinez also noted the additional salary could be tied to the administrative work and separate from the mayor’s duties and pay. That way, he says, the extra salary only applies to future mayors if they are qualified to perform the extra administrative responsibilities.

City Attorney Jamie Carmody agreed separating the two salaries is wise, noting the cautionary example of Union Gap. “You want to be really careful about rolling it all into the mayor’s job,” he said. “That’s how Union Gap got into trouble.”

If council decides to follow Martinez’s proposal, Carmody suggested the city re-evaluate the mayor’s extra administrative post and pay on an annual basis to determine if the arrangement is still benefitting the city.

Carmody added he would bring back information to council comparing the range of mayor/administrative salaries among Washington state cities.

Councilman Arturo DelaFuente asked Martinez, president of Renaissance Investment Group, Inc., if the additional post would interfere with his job.

Martinez replied that his work hours are flexible, allowing him time to work for the city.

The discussion closed with DelaFuente asking for an executive session at a later date for the five council members alone to discuss the mayor’s proposal.

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