published Sunday, September 15th, 2013

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke doles out more than $300,000 in raises to city employees

Chattanooga City Hall
Chattanooga City Hall
Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Chattanooga Salary Change Report
Chattanooga Salary Change Report

Top 5 largest pay increases

Chabrelle Christian Haigler, community development specialist -- pay raise of $13,237 or 52.9 percent -- salary: $38,272

Lamar Flint, fire chief, pay raise of $12,073 or 12.8 percent -- salary: $106,575

Bobby Dodd, police chief, pay raise of $12,007 or 10.5 percent -- salary: $126,875

Cary Bohannon, director of general services, pay raise of $11,675 or 16.8 percent -- salary: $81,200

William Matlock, fire marshal, pay raise of $10,677 or 19.2 percent -- $66,330

The figures above include the 1.5 percent raise given across the board

Source: Chattanooga Human Resources

Who was not eligible to receive the 1.5 percent raises?

• Elected officials

• Employees hired after March 31.

• Any inactive employees on date of final reading of budget ordinance, Aug. 27

• Human Services employees in Youth and Family Development who are paid through federal grant funding from the Department of Health and Human Services. These positions are federally funded, typically include increases through the federal government and are independent of the City of Chattanooga.

Source: Stacy Richardson, chief policy officer

Since Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke took office April 1, he has awarded more than $300,000 in raises to more than 100 employees over and above the 1.5 percent across-the-board raise touted in a budget unveiled earlier this year.

Those with the biggest jumps in salary include Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd, recently promoted Fire Chief Lamar Flint, Director of General Services Cary Bohannon and Fire Marshal William Matlock, according to documents obtained by the Times Free Press through a Tennessee Open Records Act request.

Their raises ranged from 10 percent to more than 19 percent when coupled with the across-the-board 1.5 percent raises.

"The decision was made to issue an across-the-board raise to avoid any issues that would affect pay scale. We know that attempting to weight the raises in the past has led to issues where supervisors make less than those who work for them and has thrown the pay scale off," said Stacy Richardson, Berke's chief policy officer. "All raises given outside of the 1.5 percent pay increase were given as a result of increased responsibility or promotions."

Councilwoman Carol Berz, who is chairwoman of the budget and finance committee, said Berke's administration most likely had behind-the-scenes conversations to retain key members of the departments when planning the budget. She was unaware of details of the raises.

"My guess would be that they used kind of a corporate way of doing that," she said. "Now maybe there's council people who may be into micromanaging things. ... I don't see a problem with it because it's within the larger parameters. I didn't see anything amiss. I think they're doing a great job."

Berz said with the city growing at a rapid pace, the need to recruit and retain talent in city government is important.

Dodd was one of the city employees who did not receive a promotion but received a raise when he was retained as police chief. He now makes $126,875 a year.

"Chief Dodd was given a raise based on increasing his responsibility in implementing new initiatives and expanding his management and operational responsibilities," Richardson said.

Even with the latest raise, Dodd's pay is comparable to that of police chiefs in the other three metro areas in Tennessee, according to salary data from the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police.

The Knoxville police chief makes $140,000; the Nashville Metro police chief makes $170,000 and the Memphis police chief, whose pay was reduced by 5 percent last year, makes $125,000.

"I was reappointed to the job as police chief and was graciously offered the same pay as other department heads being installed. I then received a 1.5 percent raise that every other city employee received," Dodd said. "As you know, I was previously paid less than other department heads with less time with the city and less responsibility."

Dodd has worked as a police officer with the city for 25 years and oversees up to 600 civilian and sworn employees.

"I think if you compare my salary with other cities our size, I believe you will find I am well within the averages," he said.

Among the other top positions given raises are the city judges, Russell Bean and Sherry Paty. Each received a 2.1 percent raise bringing their annual salary to $165,206 each.

"Judges' salaries are set by the [City] Charter and therefore not under our control," Richardson said.

Richardson said all of the money for raises is coming from the city's general fund.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.

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