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Union head blasts raises

Published:   |   Updated: March 7, 2013 at 04:20 PM

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The president of Teamsters Local 79 said he has received a couple dozen complaints from angry Hernando County employees about the raises, totaling $29,000, given last week to the four new assistant county administrators.

Three of the four administrators got 5 percent raises while the fourth got a 20 percent increase.

John Sholtes, business agent for Teamsters Local 79, said these pay hikes come when rank and file employees have been neglected.

"They feel it is like a slap in the face after being told for years that there is no money for raises," Sholtes said.

Administrator Len Sossamon assured county commissioners this week that the pay increases, required by personnel policy because of the job promotions, will be "revenue positive" due to past streamlining efforts that saved the county some $36,000.

That, he said, is more than enough to pay for the hikes.

But Sholtes said he is "truly shocked" commissioners voted to approve such rates.

"After a year-and-a-half of bargaining through a wage freeze, now they're told that four county administrative employees are receiving wage increases totaling $29, 000," Sholtes said in a memo. "It is a hypocritical outrage."

If the rank and file employees must feel the pinch of a wage freeze, then it is only fair that these administrators do so also, he said.

"As far as the excuse given that they will be assuming more job duties, my question is whose duties are they assuming?" Sholtes asked. "County Administrator Len Sossamon's? If so, wouldn't it be fair to reduce his salary by $29,000?"

Some commissioners are also questioning the pay hikes.

Commissioner Wayne Dukes has asked for a "broad discussion" of the matter to be placed on the agenda of the Feb. 26 board meeting.

Dukes said he doesn't believe that the board is bound by a personnel policy that calls for automatic pay increases and may call for a cap in salary for the four men.

Effective Tuesday, Budget Manager George Zoettlein's salary shot up 5 percent: from $97,739 to $102,606; Land Services Director Ron Pianta also went up 5 percent: from $93,558 to $98,236.

Director of Transportation Services Brian Malmberg's 5 percent raise means he goes from $90,001 to $94,501.

Because he was only making $75,000, Chief Procurement Officer Russ Wetherington received a 20 percent pay raise and will now receive $90,000.

Union steward Chris Soto said he doesn't object so much to the four new assistant administrators being paid more for extra duties.

But he said that same logic should apply to the rank and file employees, whose duties have also increased because of a reduced work force and have not gotten a raise in five years.

"Everyone's been asked to do a lot more than we did in 2005," Soto said. "To just focus on four people, it is not right."

Teamsters Local 79 represents 400-plus bargaining unit members. (352) 544-5290

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