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Mayor Dolan's $25,000 raise approved by Melrose aldermen

Posted by Marcia Dick  February 5, 2013 02:30 PM

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Kathy McCabe/Globe Staff

Alderman-at-Large Donald L . Conn, center, speaks against a $25,000 raise for Mayor Robert J. Dolan at Monday night's meeting. Seated to his left is Ward 1 Alderman John N. Tramontozzi, and to his right, Alderwoman-at-Large Jaclyn L. Bird. Bird and Conn were among three aldermen to oppose the raise, which was approved by a vote of 8-3. As of Jan. 1, 2014, Dolan's pay will increase to $125,000 per year.

Melrose Mayor Robert J. Dolan's bid for a $25,000 raise, approved by the Board of Aldermen on a vote of 8-3 Monday night, drew a packed crowd to City Hall for a second straight week.

A majority of the nearly 20 residents who addressed the board spoke in favor of the 25 percent raise,which will boost Dolan's pay from the current $99,896, to $125,000, starting Jan. 1, 2014.

A few questioned the process of the swift pace of approval by the aldermen, who first learned of the raise request in a letter from Dolan on Dec. 26.  

"It's been clear that proponents of the mayor's raise have been on their own fast track to get it approved," said Arnold Koch, a resident who spoke against the raise.

The city charter states the aldermen may only adjust the mayor's salary during the first 18 months of their term. With the next municipal election in November, the board had until June to address the raise.

Maryan Hollis, a former School Committee member, questioned an effort by Dolan and his long-time political supporter, businessman John McLaughlin, to drum up public support for the pay raise, largely by sending out e-mails to residents as early as December.

But notice of the raise did not appear on the aldermen's agenda until Jan. 22, when the board referred it for review to its appropriations committee, which includes all 11 members. 

"I am extremely troubled by the events of the last two months," said Hollis.  "There was no parity, no fairness to all taxpayers."

Hollis filed a public records request with the city clerk on Jan. 22,  seeking copies of all communication between Dolan and city officials and the general public regarding the pay raise.

Hollis said so far, the city has only supplied her with communications between Dolan and city employees, and sent her a $94.77 bill for printing and copying costs.

"I have a problem with receiving a bill for paperwork, which may already be available on the website," she said.

Dolan sent a letter on Dec. 26 to aldermen notifying them that he intended to request the pay raise.

He included data compiled by the city's Human Resources Department, showing the average salary for a mayor or town manager in 30 communities inside Route 128 is $132,053.83.

McLaughlin cited the data in an e-mail distributed to residents and business owners, framing the pay raise as an issue of fairness. "I was a little embarrassed when I saw the difference, as I consider Melrose one of the most progressive and well-run communities in the area," McLaughlin wrote.

Alderman-at-large Donald Conn -- one of three aldermen who voted against the raise -- said the board needed more time to debate the 25 percent pay raise.

"I'm very disappointed we didn't have a more substantive discussion about this ordinance," Conn said, addressing his colleagues. "What we have had, is a great deal of citizen input, which is great . . . But we've discussed it, I think, for about half an hour . . . I think that it warranted more discussion."

He added that he might have supported a smaller pay increase for Dolan, 41, a former alderman who took office in 2002. 

Conn joined Alderwoman-at-Large Jaclyn Bird and Ward 2 Alderwoman Monica Medeiros in opposing the pay raise.

Ward 6 Alderman Peter Mortimer, who made the motion to approve the pay raise, said members had enough time to review salary data, and get public input from e-mails and public meetings.

"I don't like dragging things out, especially things that are going to be divisive," Mortimer said. "We know what we know. There's not going to be much more to know."

Dolan, serving his 12th year as mayor, did not speak at either public meeting. But after Monday's vote, he expressed gratitude to aldermen who supported his raise, and a willingness to work with those who opposed him.

"This Board of Aldermen puts the interest of the city ahead of everything else," he said in an interview following the vote on Monday.  "After today, this is over. We go on to the next thing."

Kathy McCabe can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.

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