Briggs loses raise, but he's not crying over it
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Sullivan County Clerk Dan Briggs got a $9,200 raise in November, to be effective in January.
Last Thursday, legislators took it away from him.
Citing the fact that the associated local law had yet to be enacted (a 45-day waiting period is mandatory), Legislator David Sager made a motion in Executive Committee to rescind the unanimous November 20 vote.
Though legislators (minus Sager and Alan Sorensen) ultimately did approve sometimes hefty raises for other county government positions, six of the nine did not proceed in the same fashion with Briggs.
(Jodi Goodman was absent for the committee vote and the subsequent “official” vote during the full Legislature meeting.)
Sager said he introduced the resolution to rescind Briggs’ salary vote as part of his overall effort to remove the non-union raises from the proposed 2009 budget.
Instead, legislators convinced a reluctant Sager to separate the Briggs matter from the rest of the raises.
“And if I didn’t do both, it would be perceived as one Republican protecting another Republican,” Sager explained.
“I’m not against the raise for that position,” Republican Minority Leader Leni Binder remarked. “…It just seems that it’s prudent at this time to start over.”
Binder explained this week that she did not realize November’s resolution was to give Briggs a raise from $67,150 a year to $76,350, all at once.
Briggs had actually requested a raise to $74,000, gradually phased in over the remaining three years of his term. Instead, County Manager David Fanslau and his budget team opted to give Briggs a larger raise to bring him into parity with Treasurer Ira Cohen, per legislators’ previously expressed wishes.
“Traditionally the treasurer, the sheriff and the county clerk got the same salary,” remarked Legislature Vice Chair Ron Hiatt, who joined with Chair Jonathan Rouis in voting against removing Briggs’ raise.
Hiatt was disappointed that his fellow legislators responded to what he termed “hysteria” over the raises being given to county workers.
In particular with the county clerk’s position, he said, “we’ve been trying to get parity for some time.”
Sager agreed with the need for parity but is against mid-term raises. He’s hoping to spearhead an effort to automatically give equal raises for the treasurer, county clerk and sheriff at the ends of their terms.
In the meantime, he laments any bad feelings with Briggs.
“I think Danny was essentially put out there as a scapegoat,” he mused. “... I was just trying to show to the taxpayers that we were listening to them.”
Briggs said he wasn’t perturbed by the reversal. He didn’t lobby for or against it, and he’s not planning to contest it.
“I consider myself fortunate,” he remarked Friday. “I have a job I enjoy.”
Nevertheless, he’s in line for a raise come January. Binder confirmed she is planning to introduce a resolution to give Briggs a raise to $76,350 along the gradual three percent-a-year plan Briggs had proposed.
“He hasn’t asked us to go back,” Binder said of Briggs, saying this is her idea to ensure parity.