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City lawyer: Any City Council raises couldn't take effect until 2016

Henry Luthin, Boston assistant corporation counsel

Luthin to councilors: Yes, you can raise your pay - if you don't mind risking fines and jail.

Henry Luthin, assistant corporation counsel, had some bad news today for city councilors fretting they're falling behind their counterparts in other cities and the local police and fire commissioners: They can't increase their pay without breaking state law.

At a hearing this morning, Luthin said councilors are municipal employees covered by a state laws that ban workers from getting directly involved in discussions that would benefit them directly - and more specifically from accepting pay raises the same year they're approved. Because of that, he said, the council could only approve raises for the "new" council, elected in 2015 and scheduled to take office in January, 2016.

Luthin said that under his reading of both state law and the city charter, the state laws take precedence over a section of the city charter that gives the council the ability to set pay levels for certain municipal employees, such as themselves.

He spoke at a hearing on a proposal by Council President Bill Linehan to increase council salaries 29% to $108,500.

Linehan didn't buy Luthin's argument and noted that he was not speaking officially because the council had not formally asked the city law department for a legal opinion.

Councilor Frank Baker (Dorchester), who has been a strong advocate of the raise, asked what would happen if the council disregarded Luthin's advice and approved the raises anyway, to take effect in 2015. Luthin said councilors could be facing fines of up to $10,000 each and jail time.

At the hearing, all councilors acknowledged how "awkward" the discussion was. Several said, however, they deserved their first raise in eight years. At-large Councilor Ayanna Pressley said the amount was just too high.

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Comments

Does he really think that changes the law or the interpretation of the law?

Ugh. How classic.

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I guess to request a formal legal opinion from the law department, you have to submit it in writing with specific questions, rather than just asking somebody to show up at a hearing. However, Luthin also said that while he was speaking "unofficially," he believed what he was saying would essentially be the same thing he or the city counsel would say "officially."

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Ask for the a) Stenograph Record of the most recent Public Meeting and b) the full Transcript of the Captions on the most recent webcast of the most recent Public Meeting. Take the remarks of your favorite Councilor, comment and send in the comment with the quoted remarks. Or post the remarks with comment.

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You read the article. Violate the law and you are looking at a $10,000 fine and jail time. So, if you are looking making Feeney break the law, get ready to pay to have her do it.

Or, of course, you could hire your own stenographer, send that person to the meetings, and create your own record. Hey, it's your dime.

(EDIT- how did I misspell my subject?!)

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You are free to find another job, just like the rest of us do.

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What qualifications?

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So, if the state law supersedes the city charter, and the council goes ahead and votes in favor of the pay increase and implements it before 2016, what is the state punishment? Is there one at all?

Also, I sincerely hope that this pay increase goes into effect in 2016 and the city bans together to vote out of office every councilor who voted to pass it in 2015.

As I have said in the past, I'll gladly replace Tito Jackson (my district) and I'll keep my current job, and donate the 108,500 to charity.

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Potentially: Fine of up to $10,000 and jail time.

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Well I guess they'll be able to afford that with their raises.

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Ask Chuck Turner what happens to your City Councilor job when you go to jail. Only problem is - will there be anybody left on the council to throw each other out? Now there's a legal conundrum. :-)

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financially struggling councilor to have his fly zipper fixed at the dry cleaners.

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presumably councillors who abstained from discussions and voting would not be charged or go to jail.

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Great to hear. So we'll look for "cfp" on the ballot?

EDITED

All of you complaining-give us your real names. I want to run your names through the voting records to see how often you vote and show up at City Hall to testify.

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to make the decision whether or not to vote in an election without it becoming part of the public record.

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Keep in mind that who you voted for is always secret. The most detail in the records is whether you pulled a Democratic, Republican or other party's ballot in a State Primary.

I get that some feel it is an invasion of privacy, but they are wrong. Think about it... If the voting records are not available for some sort of public inspection, then you're trusting the government's numbers completely, without no ability to do an audit.

On a practical level, you can't just walk out of the Elections Dept. with all the voting records. You have to be connected to a campaign, journalism or other area of the public interest.

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If I choose whether or not to vote in an election, that should not be anybody else's business. If I choose to pull a D ballot or an R one, that should not be anybody else's business. Even if you're connected to a campaign, you are a journalist, or you are involved in some other "area of public interest".

As for auditing the results, that's simple. X number of ballots cast = X number of ballots cast. No need to inquire about "John Smith voted (or didn't vote) in X number of elections".

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Not only is it anyone's business, but voter registration lists and checklists (lists of who actually voted in the most recent election) are available as basic public records, open to public inspection, and copies are for sale to anyone willing to pay a fee.

That you are a voter and don't seem to know this makes me question the very idea of universal suffrage...

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Upcoming Election Tuesday 4 November 2014

Later this week or next week the Sample Specimen Ballot Poster will be available by email for a favorite Ward/Precinct... check the layout before going to the Poll, for example
https://muckrock.s3.amazonaws.com/foia_files/9-26-14_MR4864_RES.pdf

Requests for Sample Specimen Ballots by email at
http://www.cityofboston.gov/contact/?id=33

or
http://muckrock.com

Ward/Precinct details at
http://www.wheredoivotema.com/

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Only 30 voters citywide with the initials CFP... only 1 in District 7 (Tito's district).

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They are in fact my initials, but as I just moved to District 7 this fall from another area, I have not yet changed my address or re-registered.

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There was a lady who testified at the end who pointed out that they are comparing their salaries to City Councilors in other cities like Chicago etc. when in fact they do not have the same responsibilities that those city councilors have, specifically that they do not have a BRA in those cities and the councilors carry out all those functions and they basically are play a 'constituant services' only type of role. It was a very interesting point.

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Title: Salary of City Councilors
Docket Number: 1471
Committee: Government Operations
Description:
Ordinance amending Dity of Boston Code, Ordinances, Chapter 2-8.1, Salary of City Councilors

Video at
http://www.cityofboston.gov/citycouncil/cc_video_library.asp?id=5691
http://www.cityofboston.gov/citycouncil/ramgen.asp?id=GOP9_29_2014.rm
http://www.cityofboston.gov/citycouncil/ramgen.asp?id=GOP9_29_2014%2Erm

or enter...
Title... Salary of City Councilors
Committee... Government Operations
Dates... 09/29/2014
Docket Number 1471
at
http://www.cityofboston.gov/citycouncil/cc_video_library.asp

Boards and Commissions
Select a Board or Commission from the drop down list provided.
Boston Compensation Advisory Board
http://www.cityofboston.gov/boardsandcommissions/default.aspx?boardid=28
Department: Licensing Board
Contact: Vivian Leonard
Email:
BCAB at boston.gov
Authority: City
Term: 5
Stipend: $0.00
Seats: 5
Appointee..... Appointed..... Expires..... Status
1) Christine Dunn 11/9/2012 6/30/2014 Holdover
2) John Higgins 11/9/2012 6/30/2014 Holdover
3) Vivian Leonard 1/6/2014 Ex Officio
4) Linda Lerner 11/9/2012 6/30/2014 Holdover
5) Monroe Mosley 11/9/2012 6/30/2014 Holdover
6) Deborah C. Shah 11/9/2012 6/30/2014 Holdover
http://www.cityofboston.gov/boardsandcommissions/default.aspx?boardid=28

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Not sure how they're going to defend forcing a raise through which takes effect before the next session.

A more appropriate "punishment" would be state court nullifying the resolution, taking back any illegal salary disbursed and bringing ethics violations against any Coucilor who voted for the resolution knowing it was illegal. That said I don't know if any of those consequences have any legal standing...

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better than any city council in the United States. Therefore, and I want the minutes to reflect this Mr. President, we councilors should be paid commensurate with out production of nothing. Hurmph. Hurmph!

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as long as the money will go toward the "Buy Shirley Kressel a house in Brookline" fund.

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and that's why I think this comment is funny as could be. It's too bad not many others will get it.

I'm sad to say, however, that even if you put all of the raises into the fund, it still wouldn't be enough to buy a house. A very cheap condo/townhouse down near the West Rox or Newton Line maybe, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find a house anywhere in town.

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How many of you, if you could, would give yourself a raise?

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While I would certainly accept a raise in my private sector job if one were offered to me, I don't think I would be able to live with myself if I gave myself a raise, especially when that raise was funded with taxpayer dollars. That is completely immoral and as we have read in the post, criminal.

I also firmly believe that the principal author of the State Constitution is probably turning in his grave to see the state of politics in the city. John Adams, who wrote the law that Linehan is choosing to ignore, represented the state and the country at his own expense. In his day, men didn't go into politics as a career and did not become rich that way. Adams worked first and foremost as an attorney, and when he and his family began to run out of money, he would go back to work representing clients and remove himself from politics in order to earn money. The members of the City Council make very decent salaries as it is, and if any of them feel that they aren't making enough money to live or support their families, they are free to do as Adams did and not seek reelection and go back to their private sector careers. I can't say that I would mind having representatives who work, not for the pay, but because they truly believe in working for a short time to improve the quality of life for everyone in the city.

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a raise!! Hurrumph!!

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Who would be the next President of the Council?... Councilor Wu?

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