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City Council head now says pay raise can wait

Before expected vote, Linehan cites ethics panel advice

City Council president Bill Linehan, scaling back his initial bid for a raise this year, said Monday that council members should follow the advice of the state Ethics Commission and wait until January 2016 to add the increase to their paychecks.

The council, facing scrutiny over the propriety of the raise, is expected to vote Wednesday on the $25,000 yearly increase, according to Councilor at Large Michael R. Flaherty Jr., chairman of the Government Operations Committee, which had been reviewing the matter and held a public hearing last week.

The 29 percent raise would boost councilors’ pay to $112,500. If the increase goes into effect in 2016, a decade will have passed since the council’s last raise, Linehan said.

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Mayor Martin J. Walsh has to approve the raise. A spokeswoman said Monday evening that the mayor had not seen the revised proposal.

“If and when there is a proposal before the mayor, he and his team will review accordingly,” spokeswoman Kate Norton said.

The law stipulates that any wage increase must take effect after the next council election. In Boston’s case, that would be after January 2016.

Linehan said he wanted to address how the City Council should handle its own pay. The council has long voted on its raises, but this year the state Ethics Commission objected.

A state ethics law forbids municipal employees from participating in matters that serve their own interest, including pay raises.

“We still feel that there is a conflict between the state law that empowers us to create an ordinance to adjust our salaries — up or down — and state ethics law,” said Linehan, of South Boston. “Moving forward, we would like to resolve that.”

Linehan had proposed amending the city ordinance to include the higher salary of $112,500, up from $87,500, and to have it go into effect immediately. Under the revised plan, the raise would be deferred until 2016.

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The revised measure appears poised to pass, according to several councilors. Still, some councilors said they are advocating for a lower pay increase and a different mechanism for adjusting councilors’ salaries.

Councilor Frank Baker, who represents Dorchester, has been a vocal champion of a raise and has said he will continue to support it, in spite of the delay in implementation.

But Councilor Josh Zakim of Mission Hill said that after just nine months on the council, he cannot justify giving himself a raise and will oppose the measure.

Councilor Matt O’Malley of West Roxbury and Councilor at Large Ayanna Pressley of Dorchester have argued that Linehan’s pay hike is too much. Both are pressing for a lower increase, along with Councilor Salvatore LaMattina.

“I’ve been clear all along that I think the number is too high and we should lower it,’’ said O’Malley, who is urging the council to adopt a salary-setting mechanism used by state lawmakers that relies on changes in median income in the state.

Saying that taxpayers deserve an open and predictable process, Pressley said if the measure comes up for a vote Wednesday, she will oppose it.

“There needs to be a mechanism to protect taxpayers and to pay our salaries,’’ she said.

Pressley said she would support using a 2013 report by the city’s Compensation Advisory Board as a basis for increasing councilor’s pay. At the time, the board had recommended an 8.6 percent pay hike for the mayor — bringing the chief executive’s salary to about $190,000 — but none for councilors. The recommendation was not acted upon.

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Traditionally, councilors are paid half of what the mayor makes, and the council should follow that practice, Pressley said.

The fiscal watchdog Boston Municipal Research Bureau also suggested at the hearing last week that the Compensation Advisory Board report could be used to set a salary increase.

Samuel R. Tyler, bureau president, said Walsh and the council should work together to resolve lingering issues.

“Our position is that this should not be done piecemeal,’’ Tyler said. “This requires the mayor and the City Council to come to an arrangement on how to proceed, and I don’t think that has been done yet.”

As the vote nears, Councilor at Large Michelle Wu and Zakim continued to press for an independent civilian review board to study council salaries.

“The council deciding on the matter is flawed,’’ Wu said, adding that she will not support an increase in its original form. “We need to change the whole method of how we set salaries.”

Councilors LaMattina, Flaherty, and Timothy McCarthy of Hyde Park said they were unsure how they will vote Wednesday. “I don’t really like to take a pass” on a yes or no vote, McCarthy said. “But I’ve got to read everything first.”

Councilors Charles Yancey, Tito Jackson, and Stephen J. Murphy could not be reached for comment.


Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.

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