LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has called on city councilors to reduce their annual $15,302 pay until a Superior Court lawsuit over mayoral pay is resolved.
Kennedy issued the challenge during a recent debate with council president John Timothy Phelan, her opponent in the Nov. 5 general election.
Phelan, a 22-year city councilor, accepted the challenge personally but said the decision was up to individual councilors.
“No one on the City Council wants to take a penny more than what they’re entitled to,” he said in an interview.
Calls placed to the other 10 councilors were not returned. Kennedy also did not return calls seeking comment.
In addition to salary, Lynn councilors receive $8,700 annually for expenses, boosting their total compensation to $24,002, according to city payroll data.
Phelan noted that councilors “get the same exact expense check as the mayor.”
During the debate — which is posted online at lynnhappens.com — Kennedy said councilors are relying on “fuzzy math” to collect a salary greater than allowed by city ordinance.
“There is an ordinance that says 15 percent of my salary is their salary,” Kennedy said during the Sept. 30 debate. “I’m calling on the council to take that amount, until the court decides, whether it is proper or not.”
Kennedy filed a lawsuit in 2010 against former Mayor Edward J. Clancy Jr., whom she defeated by 30 votes in 2009. Kennedy alleges that Clancy was overpaid during his eight years as mayor.
At issue are city ordinances and legal opinions that allow the Lynn mayor to receive pay raises and other benefits, such as longevity and vacation pay, that are provided to a City Hall union and department heads.
Kennedy said she thinks the practice is illegal, and has asked a judge to determine how the mayor’s salary should be determined. Since taking office, Kennedy said she has been paid $82,500, the amount set in a 1998 city ordinance.
Clancy filed a counterclaim to the lawsuit, accusing Kennedy of “selective enforcement” of city ordinances to deny him benefits paid to Lynn mayors dating back to 1988.
The case is being heard in Middlesex Superior Court. A trial date has not yet been set.
The outcome could have a direct effect on the amount of salary paid to councilors. Based on Kennedy’s salary, and applying a rate of 15 percent, councilors would be paid $12,375. But councilors are receiving 15 percent of the $102,000 base salary paid to Clancy in 2009.
As mayor, Kennedy could cut councilors’ pay “with a stroke of a pen,” since the mayor sets the council’s budget, Phelan said.
“But she has set the City Council salaries, for the past four years, exactly the way they were the previous eight years,” he said.
Phelan said he looks forward to a court resolution.
“We’ve got a legal opinion from our city solicitor about the mayor’s salary. The mayor has her own opinion,” Phelan said. “A judge will decide.”