(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – The division among Lawrenceburg City Council and Mayor Dennis Carr appears to be widening with the recent filing of a lawsuit alleging the mayor is mistaken over who has the final say on raises for city employees.
Doug Taylor, President of Lawrenceburg City Council, filed the lawsuit on behalf of council in Dearborn Superior Court on October 5. The complaint was submitted by Indianapolis-based Barnes & Thornburg attorneys Nicholas K. Kile and Mark J. Crandley, attorneys for Common Council of the City of Lawrenceburg.
Council voted to file the lawsuit at a September 27 meeting.
The petition for determination of the city executive and legislative power alleges the defendant, Mayor Dennis Carr, improperly proposed raises to city employees during the budget year without council’s approval, a violation of Indiana Code 36-4-7-4. The law’s subsection (b) says that a city legislative body – in this case city council – may reduce, but may not increase any compensation fixed by the executive – the mayor – no later than November 1.
Subsection (c) in the law says that employee compensation may be increased or decreased by the executive during the budget year for which it is fixed. Carr publicly announced that subsection (c) authorizes him the power to grant raises to city employees during a budget year without council approval and that council could not reduce the proposed raise, according to the complaint.
“The Common Council believes that a raise granted by the Mayor under subsection (c) is still ‘compensation fixed by the executive’ which the legislative body is authorized by subsection (b) to reduce,” Taylor claims.
The complaint asserts that if Carr’s interpretation of subsection (c) were correct, it would “render a mockery” of the process in subsection (b), “producing absurd results.”
Taylor requests that the court conduct hearings as it deems necessary to settle the dispute and rule that city council retains the power to reduce the mayor’s proposed city employee raises. “Other relief deemed appropriate in the premises” was also request by the plaintiff.
Carr is given 23 days to respond to the complaint.
The mayor’s office referred questions concerning the lawsuit to City Attorney Joe Votaw, who did not wish to comment on the matter.
Taylor's attorney, Nicholar Kile, told Eagle 99.3 that the council's action does not mean that council disagrees with raises for city employees, but that council wants to be sure the process is done right.
There appears to be a fairly routine problem in Lawrenceburg to recognize whose job is what, Kile claims.
"In all my years as an attorney I've never encountered a client where a mayor would contend that he could issue a raise without council approval," Kile said.
Kile admitted that the city council and the mayor have had inability to work together.
"But council wants to work with the mayor. They just want to do the job they are supposed to."
Following the October 5 lawsuit filing, at the next City Council meeting on October 9, three council members were absent. With no quorum, meetings for the Parks & Playground Board, Utility Board, and Common Council could not be held.
A cover sheet from the October 9 city meeting minutes notes that councilman Mike Lawrence was out of town while Taylor and Jane Pope both called in sick.
The city's 2013 budgets were a topic of discussion at the October 15 city council meeting. A continuation of the talks will take place on Monday, October 22 at 6:30 p.m. and Wednesday, October 24 at 5:00 p.m., both in city council chambers.