By SOPHIE GORMAN ORIANI — On Aug. 5, the Hyattsville City Council passed a new charter amendment, clarifying the procedures by which the pay of the mayor and city council is set. This was the second attempt to pass Charter Amendment Resolution 2019-02, after the initial attempt at a public hearing in May turned out to have been improperly advertised due to what Laura Reams, city clerk, referred to in the Aug. 5 hearing as a “clerical error.”
The new charter amendment lays out the procedure for setting the salaries for the mayor and city council. According to the new amendment, the Compensation Review Committee (CRC), “a seven person compensation review committee whose membership shall be comprised of at least one member from each Ward of the City,” is formed at least 180 days before every mayoral election. The CRC makes a recommendation regarding salary at least 90 days prior to the election, which the sitting mayor and council can accept or reject, but not amend.
Under the new amendment, while the council members vote shortly before the election, the new salaries do not take effect for two years. This ensures that every city council seat has been up for election before the new salary takes effect.
“The intent behind the charter amendment was to match the process that we’ve been following,” said Mayor Candace B. Hollingsworth during the May 6 public hearing. “There was lack of clarity, or ambiguity, in the way that the charter was written. Even though our procedures matched that, the charter had an ambiguity in it.”
On May 6, the city held a public hearing regarding the charter amendment. One public comment was made to confirm that the intention of the amendment was to establish that no council member is voting on his or her own salary. “It’s to match the process that we’ve articulated every time we’ve gone through it; it’s just [that] the wording was unclear,” Hollingsworth assured him. The city council passed the charter amendment without discussion.
However, the story did not end there. The public hearing had not been advertised for the required four weeks, so the process had to start over. On Aug. 5, a second public hearing was held. “We’ll get it right this time,” laughed Reams. No one gave additional testimony at the hearing, and the city council again passed the amendment with no discussion during the regular council meeting that same evening.