By JENNIE ZEITLER, Staff Writer
Contracted Deputy Clerk Sheri Johnson brought to the Upsala City Council a request for a wage increase Monday. Johnson has been the part-time deputy clerk for about four years, but has been contracted for only one year.
Johnson has been paid $12.75 per hour for work that comprised less than three hours per month in 2012.
“This should have been discussed a year ago,” said Clerk/Treasurer Adrian Welle. “We should have had this discussion when she changed from being a city employee to being contracted, but the discussion wasn’t necessary until she made the request to be paid more.”
Johnson requested a wage increase to more than $15 per hour, setting her sights on $18 per hour, the same wage as Welle. She also requested the option of working more hours.
“I work about two hours per month doing the accounts payable,” Johnson said. “Adrian wanted me to take over the utility billing.”
Mayor Rollie Johnson said the new software and the audit process put Welle behind with office duties.
“This would be on just an ‘as-needed’ basis,” Welle said. “Filing and accounts payable is where I get behind. We also have to have double accountability — that’s where this came into play.”
Council Member Joan Olson questioned the reasoning behind paying Sheri Johnson the same wage as Welle, asking for details regarding educational background.
“We have the same educational level; you have to look at work experience,” Welle said.
“I went to the clerk training, and I’ve been your clerk,” said Johnson.
“Looking at degrees, Adrian has a public administration degree; that’s why we hired him. It’s unbalanced if they are both making the same amount of money; I don’t see where both of them need $18 an hour,” Olson said. “If this were in St. Cloud or the Cities, this would be a ballpark figure, but for this rural setting this is a high wage.”
“You have a clerk who is out in the community networking and going to meetings,” Welle said.
“If we want Adrian to be doing these things and helping the city grow, then we want someone to take some of that burden from him,” said Council Member Brian Lange. “But we need to specify the number of hours. I know it’s only ‘as-needed’ but there have to be some limits.”
Welle recommended that Sheri Johnson be allowed to work four hours per week with office duties and two hours per week with accountability tasks.
“This would be a second set of eyes verifying that we’re not getting fined,” Welle said. “She would help not only with the bills but with records retention, payroll and sales tax.”
“We need the double accountability,” said the mayor.
“It’s important that we have more than one person who knows what’s happening,” said Council Member Dennis Westrich.
The Council voted 3-2 to contract with Sheri Johnson for $18 per hour, not to exceed 20 hours per month. Olson voted no.
“I still think the hourly wage is too much,” Olson said.