Archive for the ‘Reno/Sparks/Tahoe’ Category

‘Disingenuous’ Or Deceptive?

March 31, 2010

By David Farside

March 29th, 2010

Last week, the Sparks City Council voted on the proposal to reduce its pay by 7.5 percent in its effort to save taxpayers money during this time of financial uncertainty and budgetary shortfalls. Most of the members, but evidently not all, agree that giving themselves an increase in salary would be a political slap in the face to city employees and the people of Sparks. After all, how could they gain the respect of voters and their staff if they themselves did not take a pay cut like every other city employee? But are all of them really taking a pay cut?

By statute, the wages for city council members are 80 percent of what county commissioners earn. The mayor receives 100 percent of a commissioner’s salary. The county commissioners were eligible for a 4 percent increase each of the last few years and the city council is also a beneficiary of that same increase, although some councilmen did not take their entitled increase in pay. That’s about to change.

During the meeting, Councilwoman Julia Ratti mentioned a key point concerning the proposal. She said it was “a bit disingenuous” and questioned on what the 7.5 percent cut would be based. She said, “If we take a (pay) reduction on what we are entitled to, I would make more this year than I did last year.” And she is right. Finally, Councilman Ron Schmitt made the motion allowing the council to take pay cuts by at least 7.5 percent or more “if they so choose.” But he didn’t mention anything about his plans to choose an increase in his own salary.

I have heard rumors that it didn’t take long for Schmitt to march into the Sparks human resources department and sign the necessary paperwork, giving him a 8 percent cut in pay. Sounds good. But he also had the department add his entitled 12 percent to his base pay. Using this shifty maneuver, Schmitt will receive $2,084 or about 5 percent more this year than he did last year. So much for his bragging about his self-imposed cut in pay.

If Schmitt really wanted to do the right thing for Sparks, instead of an increase in pay, he should have followed Mayor Geno Martini’s lead and taken a 15 percent decrease in salary.

This year, Schmitt is challenging Martini for the mayor’s position. Schmitt has been on the council for nine years and he says, “It is time we set a new direction and new focus for the city as we move into the future.” I wonder what kind of new direction and focus he might be talking about?

As chairman of the Sparks Tourism and Marketing Committee he hasn’t demonstrated his ability to focus on city business. Last year, the Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority informed the city of Sparks it had exceeded the cap and overpaid the city $436,000 in room tax extending over a three-year period. The room tax is used by the Tourmark committee for promoting tourism and marketing for the city of Sparks. There was a $200,000 annual cap on the amount paid to the city. The RSCVA caught the error and notified the city. Schmitt, as councilman, member of the Sparks Redevelopment Agency and chairman of Tourmark, had to know there was an overpayment each of the three years. He testified in Carson City and supported the legislation providing for the $200,000 annual cap. It seems Schmitt lost his memory, his focus and ability to count above $200,000. The council, mayor and city manager took the heat and scrambled for ways to mitigate Schmitt’s lack of focus and poor administrative skills. And Schmitt wants to be mayor?

Schmitt wants to set the future course for Sparks  in “a new direction.” If elected mayor, he could replace the forward progress Martini has guided us through during the last three or four years with his new backward direction of ineptness.

Politically, I have not always agreed with the mayor, but he has always been upfront and straightforward with the people of Sparks.

Personally, I have never doubted his honesty, sincerity, empathy for city employees, commitment to the people of Sparks or his political integrity. Although I may have challenged it at times, I never doubted it.

If Schmitt’s rumored scheme to give himself a pay increase instead of a decrease in salary is true, it’s an indication of what he could do if he becomes Mayor of Sparks. His new direction backwards could prove he is more than “a bit disingenuous;” he might be downright deceptive.