Fickett and Ivan Foley
Confusion and uncertainty.
Those words might best describe the atmosphere at
a meeting of Platte County's elected officeholders
at a meeting of what is known as the Salary Commission
on Tuesday afternoon.
Talk of what has been done in the
past, whether what was done in the past was legal
or constitutional, and what should be done in regard
to future cost of living increases for officeholders
all played into the discussion.
A new statute passed by the Missouri
legislature this year allows the countys salary
commission to establish parameters for all officeholder
salaries. The new law tosses out the former maximum
pay scale that had been established by the state.
Even though technically that maximum allowable compensation
no longer exists, it was referred to in a motion
passed on a split vote Tuesday.
Following discussion, Platte County
Collector Donna Nash motioned that salaries
for Platte County officials remain at 100% of the
allowable compensation pursuant to Sections 50.343
and 57.317 RSMo as previously adjusted annually
by the county commission for cost-of-living and
further move that the county commission continue
to be authorized to adjust the compensation of county
officers effective January first of each year as
a cost-of-living adjustment which shall be in the
form of a percentage which shall be the same for
all county officers, not to exceed the percentage
increase given other county employees.
The Platte County Salary Commission
is comprised of 12 elected officials. Those serving
on the commission are: Presiding Commissioner Betty
Knight, First District Commissioner Tom Pryor, Second
District Commissioner Jim Plunkett, Collector Donna
Nash, Sheriff Richard Anderson, County Clerk Sandy
Krohne, Public Administrator Terry Edwards, Assessor
Lisa Pope, Auditor Sandra Thomas, Treasurer Bonnie
Brown, Recorder of Deeds Ida Cox and Prosecuting
Attorney Eric Zahnd.
Zahnd did not take part in the meeting
because his salary is set by state statute. Brown
was out of town and did not attend. Cox, who has
indicated she is retiring and will not seek reelection,
also did not attend.
By a vote of 7-2 from the Salary
Commissionwith Pryor and Plunkett voting nothe
motion passed allowing elected officials' salaries
to remain at 100% with the opportunity for a COLA
(cost of living adjustment) if approved by the county
The Salary Commission themselves
cannot decide (the amount of) a cost of living increase,
said Krohne. We give the county commission
the authority to give a cost of living if they so
Plunkett questioned County Counselor
Bob Shaw about the legality of the motion and what
the county has done regarding COLAs for several
years with elected officials, stating he doesnt
want to get caught in a situation like the county
has in the past (referencing the unconstitutional
mid-term pay raise with former First District Commissioner
Krohne pointed out that the county
has been issuing these COLAs to their elected
officials in mid-term for many years.
Just because weve been
doing it that way doesnt make it legal,
stated Plunkett. I dont want to get
in a situation where Ive been tied to something
like whats been done in the past.
He continued, My concern is,
legally is that what were supposed to be doing?
With many unclear and uncut answers
in Missouri statutes, Shaw was unable to give a
clear-cut answer. While declining to give a strong
voice on his own interpretation, Shaw said the constitutionality
of mid-term cost of living pay increases has never
been ruled on by the courts. Nor has the state attorney
general offered an opinion on the matter, Shaw said.
"An argument could be made
either way (on the constitutionality of cost of
living pay increases for officeholders being accepted
in the middle of their terms)," Shaw remarked.
The Salary Commission has until
Dec. 15 to rescind the action taken Tuesday if Shaw
later advises the motion to be illegal or unconstitutional.
The salary commission would then
reconvene at a later date to rescind the motion
and review the issue.
According to the county auditor,
with the exception of Zahnd, Anderson, Pryor and
Plunkett, each county officeholder makes $63,840
State statute says the associate
commissioners must be paid $2,000 less than the
presiding commissioner, so Pryor and Plunkett earn
$61,840. Anderson is paid $69,250 for the position
of sheriff and Zahnd's prosecutorial salary as set
by the state is $96,000.
It was pointed out the county commission
is not bound by the salary commission's motion.
Commissioners could decide not to grant budget authority
authorizing any cost of living pay increase effective
for officeholders in next year's budget.
In previous years, the county has
authorized the same percentage cost of living pay
increase for officeholders as the county employees