Baker mayor getting large pay raise amounting to $25,000 this summer
BAKER - The mayor of the city of Baker received a $15,000 raise last July and is scheduled to receive another $10,000 raise this July, a $25,000 raise in a year's time, the WBRZ Investigative Unit uncovered.
Mayor Darnell Waites said he asked for a raise last year and the Baker City Council delivered, approving the raise in a 3-1 vote with one councilwoman abstaining last July.
"We did some research on it, and that's what they came up with," Waites said.
This summer, Waites will earn an estimated $125,000 with benefits. That does not include an additional $2,100 in expenses he gets reimbursed for, including lunches and flowers for funerals.
Waites' large pay increase has come under fire by at least two council members that question the legality of it and whether it was done correctly.
"At the council meeting, I informed my colleagues and the public about my concerns about the mayor giving himself a $15,000 raise and the next year $10,000," councilwoman Brenda Jackson said. "The charter and state law said, in order for him to get a raise, it needed to be done six months before the election."
Baker's charter states that "any ordinance decreasing or increasing the salary or granting any other monetary compensation other than reimbursements for actual expenses incurred on official city business shall be effective only after the next regular mayoral election and must have been passed prior to six months before that election; except, however, when the population of the city reaches 25,000 persons as determined by any regular or special census, then the mayor shall become a full-time official..."
City Attorney Ken Fabre said because Waites is full-time, he's eligible for the raise while in office. Fabre added that everything was done in accordance with the city's charter.
Waites said with all of Baker's growth and economic development, he thinks he deserves the large pay increase.
"We are seeing a big population of growth with economic development," Waites said. "We working. We are short-handed but working."
According to census data, Baker is actually seeing declines in population. In 2010, there were nearly 14,000 residents living in the city. In 2020, that number reduced to 12,455.
"The population went down, but that census is not right," Waites said. "We lost 600 or 700 people, they said. I don't believe that or those numbers."
Councilwoman Jackson believes the raise was illegal.
"It gave me tremendous pause," Jackson said. "The confidence in our elected and appointed officials has gone down. By affording himself the opportunity to get that raise, it tells the citizens, 'Wow, I care about myself more than you.'"
Waites said he asked for the raise for his successor.
"I did this for the future of that seat, not for me," Waites said.
WBRZ noted that he's benefiting from it by being paid the increase.
"Well, I'm working in it now, but I wouldn't say I'm benefiting... yes, I'm getting paid the amount, yes."
Waites is scheduled to receive the rest of his $25,000 increase this summer when his salary increases another $10,000.