Aug 25, 2009 5:18 PM by James Jarman
In 2005, state lawmakers set up the County Elected Officials' Salary Commission to study and recommend what elected county officials should be paid. The commission of 12 volunteers, appointed by the state senate president and state house speaker, will study salaries paid to county officials, including the difficulty and time requirements of the job.
After what we saw in Pueblo County during our undercover investigation, time on the job for county commissioners is something we wanted to see in writing. But even though the state commission's final report says the information was submitted to state lawmakers in 2006, there's no record of the time requirements that we could find.
They did recommend taxpayers in the 9 largest counties give each commissioner a cost of living raise, bumping the annual pay for each from $61,203 to $87,300. Using their numbers, News First 5 calculates that raise should have been only $7,000, or about 10 percent. Instead the pay for county commissioners went up $26,000, a 43 percent pay hike over 6 years.
We left a message for Kathay Rennals, she chaired the commission and she benefited from the raise. She's a Larimer county commissioner. She never called us back.
Rich Seymour was a taxpayer representative on the commission. He was the only member who does not work for a county government and has never run for political office.
"My concern initially was how can the state tell counties what to pay people? And how do you deal with the disparities in the different sizes of the counties in Colorado?" he told News First 5.
His concerns about state lawmakers telling local taxpayers how much to pay their county elected officials is shared by Andy McElhany, a former state lawmaker and frequent News First 5 political analyst.
"I've always thought it would be better off for the local counties to be more involved either the commissioners to set their own salaries and be responsible for that or have the voters in that county vote on their salaries since they know what the commissioners workload is," said McElhany.
As far as more input from the local level, we couldn't find any mention in the commission's reports of any local input. "There was no wellspring of citizen contact on this either," said Seymour.
And when News First 5 went to the state capital looking for information on the salary commission we were shuttled from office to office. No one had heard of it, even though it's set to meet again soon.
The governor's office recently asked Seymour if he'd like to be on the commission again. He said yes, and he'll again bring up his concerns.
"I don't think that's the job of the state, it's better for all government should be local and that's how it should be handled," he said.