Board decides president’s raise was legit

By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press Staff

After initially calling it an oversight on its part, the Fredonia Village Board was right after all when it came to properly voting to increase the salary of the village president.

Several years ago, the Village Board approved a pay raise for Don Dohrwardt that took effect in 2017, but the board revisited its decision last month after it learned about a possible change in state law. 

The question arose after officials believed a three-quarters-majority vote was needed to properly increase a public official’s salary and not a two-thirds majority.

In February, Dohrwardt said he thought he noticed the law change when the village was going through a recodification process. 

The Village Board asked its attorney Johnathan Woodward to check the statute, and he concluded the three-quarters vote is only necessary to give an elected official  a wage if they aren’t already receiving a salary. 

“If I’m reading the opinion right, our ordinance was fine the way it was because we are only making adjustments to a salary,” Dohrwardt said, during last week’s Village Board meeting. 

In 2015, the Village Board voted 6-1 to increase the president’s annual salary from $3,000 to $4,500 after it had raised trustees’ wages two years prior but not the president’s. Trustee Jill Bertram cast the dissenting vote.

At the time, Dohrwardt said increasing his salary would place the village within the range of other local communities and would not take effect until April 2017.   

During an April 2016 Village Board meeting, Bertram said a $1,500 raise was excessive, noting the village president’s duties are not much more than that of a trustee. The board then voted 5-2 to cut the original raise in half, making Dohrwardt’s salary total $3,750.

Dohrwardt and former trustee Lisa Dohrwardt voted in opposition.

The question arose if the vote was proper because a three-quarters majority needs 5.25 members on a seven-person board to vote in favor, which would have nullified the April 2016 decision. 

During last week’s meeting, Dohrwardt asked the board if it wanted to take another vote, but the trustees agreed the 2016 vote was done correctly.

“If what you did was done properly the first time around, then there is no change,” Trustee TJ Meyers-Jansky said. “What was voted on should stay as the vote.”

Last month, Dohrwardt said if the 2015 vote wasn’t done properly, he would have taken a pay cut. 

“Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Try telling the cop you didn’t see the sign,” he said.

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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