On Monday the full City-County Council will vote on whether to raise the County Option Income Tax to help pay for public safety; raises for police and firefighters, 100 new police officers, pensions, crime prevention programs etc. While I still have my doubts about whether the votes are there to pass it, I do believe there are some members of the Council who should not vote on this measure.
There are several members of the Council who would get a direct benefit from the tax increase. Democrats Monroe Gray, Vernon Brown, Sherron Franklin, Mary Moriarty Adams and Republicans Ike Randolph, Lance Langsford, Lincoln Plowman and Marilyn Pfisterer. All eight members of the Council should abstain from voting because they all have a conflict of interest.
Randolph, Plowman, Langsford and Franklin are either police officers or firefighters and they would get a 12-percent raise (over the next four years) if the tax were implemented because it is the funding source for their contract’s salary increases. Moriarty Adams is married to a police so she would get a direct benefit. Pfisterer is married to a retired firefighter who gets a direct benefit in the form of a stable pension. And Gray and Brown are department chiefs, and although their salaries are not determined by the contract, they are in policy making positions in the department and should abstain from voting.
I asked Mayor Bart Peterson yesterday whether public safety officials on the Council should abstain from voting, his reply was that since the ordinance doesn’t specifically require revenue be spent on raises, there is no conflict. With all due respect, that’s a load of “you-know-what” because we all know what the money will be used for, otherwise there’s no point in raising the tax.
I am not the first person to write about this. Both the Star and Advance Indiana have brought this up. We should have the tax debate, but it should be honest and above reproach. I begrudgingly accept the fact Indiana allows public employees to serve on the Councils and Boards which govern their agencies, but doesn’t help when elected officials are voting for their own pay raises or have a personal stake in the outcome.