Faribault County commissioners getting a pay raise came down to two choices — taxpayers are going to pay us now or pay us later.
During their meeting Tuesday, the five-member board and County Attorney Cameron Davis discussed if they should get a 5 percent salary increase for 2023 that was approved by a roll call vote.
Under state law, commissioners are required to pass a resolution if they are going to get paid more in the upcoming year and the new salary amount must be stated on an annual basis.
Davis was asked to research the issue and focused on whether the motion for a roll call vote could be considered a resolution.
“I don’t see any issue of calling the vote a resolution,” says Davis. “If challenged, my best guess is that a court would uphold the action you took was a resolution.”
However, Davis warned commissioners it’s hard to predict how an appellate court judge would rule on the issue.
“Generally speaking, appellate court judges are very, very particular when it comes to following the exact wording of the statute,” he says. “If you are doing something as a board and the statute says it needs to have a specific dollar amount, it is my recommendation that you include that specific dollar amount.”
Davis also did not want to give commissioners a legal opinion on whether they should take the pay raise.
Mark Kerr of the State Auditor’s Office says he’s read the statute dealing with salaries of commissioners.
“As I understand it, the county commissioners will not receive the salary increase during 2023,” he says.
County Auditor Darren Esser says if commissioners are paid more an audit conducted for 2023 would result in a finding because the roll call vote did not contain a specific salary amount.
“A remedy would be needed and obviously most likely be requesting the board return those funds,” says Esser.
Commissioner Greg Young, who was board chairman at the time of the vote, says he relied on Business Practices, state statute, Robert’s Rule of Order, League of Minnesota Cities and Webster’s Dictionary to research the matter.
“I disagree with the auditor. There certainly was a dollar amount,” says Young. “It was last year’s wages plus a 5 percent increase. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what that is.”
After nearly 20 minutes of discussion, Esser offered what he felt was a “fair remedy” for the commissioners.
“The resolution would include the amount equal to a 5 percent increase for 2023 plus another percentage increase for 2024 if they so chose,” he says.
In 2022, each commissioners earned an annual salary of $22,205, a per diem to attend meetings other than monthly board meeting and meal allowances. With the increase, they would have been paid $23,314 this year.
Last December, commissioners Bruce Anderson, John Roper, Bill Groskreutz and Young voted in favor of the 5 percent increase. Commissioner Tom Loveall wasn’t present for the vote.