Bad Journalism + Biased Editor = The Gray News

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Ray Clark twists the truth (or ignores it)

June 23, 2006 Ray Clark wrote:

"There was considerable discussion of the concept of merit pay increases for certain Town employees, an idea promoted by former Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz, especially after Park and Recreation Director Dean Bennett pointed out that under the terms of the new contract Town employees would have to pay a share of insurance increases, which would in some cases result in an actual reduction in pay. But no decision was reached."

Wrong wrong wrong. The council had decided this, long ago, during the budget process. It was former Manager Berkowitz and Acting Manager Hill failed to carry council's directions through. It was only recently that Council discovered neither Manager had properly accounted for merit pay increases. The discussion was to find out why, where the money went, and how the failure happened.

First, Merit pay was promoted by the current council. Market pay was promoted by the former manager. In merit pay, only meritorious employees get extra money, which may or may not include the manager. In market adjustment, everyone gets a raise, including the manager. During the budget development process, the council wanted to ensure that the meritorious employees could be somewhat compensated by health care costs going up, and have a chance to recoup that loss through good service.

About a month ago, or more, stand-in for the Acting Manager, Dean Bennett, announced that the merit pay increases were not in the budget. Council was perplexed- they had been clear, they said. They said that they had directed Mrs. Hill to calculate the merit pay increases based on the evaluations Manager Berkowitz had completed prior to his quitting. A figure had been proposed. Money had been budgeted. And, council said, they thought that Mrs. Hill had carried out those directions. But, she had not.

Council met with Mrs. Hill at a Finance Meeting several days before Tuesday's meeting, Councilor Crane said, and they told her again.

So on Tuesday night council was again perplexed as to why the Acting Manager Mrs. Hill was not following through on the merit pay, despite repeated Council direction. In fact, they were quizzical as to why Mrs. Hill was giving Mr. Bennett different directions that they had given her "a few days ago" as Mr. Crane put it. So they discussed it again on Tuesday night.



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