Kapiti Coast District Council chief executive Pat Dougherty has quietly pocketed a $44,000 pay rise.
The Dominion Post can confirm the hefty salary increase – which councillors signed off at a meeting the public was excluded from. It takes his pay from $241,000 to $285,000.
The 14.4 per cent pay rise of Mr Dougherty's Christchurch counterpart, Tony Marryatt, has sparked national debate. Mr Dougherty's pay rise is 18.2 per cent.
His increase follows a $280,000 golden handshake to the man he replaced, Leigh Halstead. That deal included a new Peugeot worth $45,000 before Mr Halstead quit less than a year into his $200,000-a-year job.
Mr Dougherty refused to discuss his pay rise yesterday.
However, it is already being labelled excessive and irresponsible.
Former mayoral candidate Chris Turver is calling on Mr Dougherty to decline the pay rise and take a voluntary pay cut to help offset multimillion-dollar budget blowouts on a new aquatic centre and civic building upgrade.
Mr Turver said the pay rise was grossly insensitive in an economic climate in which most people get no, or minimal, increases. It also raised serious questions about the council's judgment, he said. "The $44,000 pay rise would be enough to support a family of four."
The pay rise was signed off during a public-excluded annual performance review late last year.
It is understood the decision was not unanimous, with at least two councillors opposing the pay rise because of cost overruns overseen by Mr Dougherty's administration.
The budget blowouts have sparked a complaint to the auditor-general; Kapiti ratepayers face a 12 per cent rates rise next year.
Before Christmas, Kapiti Grey Power asked the auditor-general to investigate the council for allegedly breaching its own rules over cost blowouts on two multimillion-dollar projects.
The council increased its budget to build an aquatic centre from $16.98 million to $21.1m, and its budget for upgrading its civic building upgrade has ballooned from $7.25m to $8.26m.
Otaki's botched Main St upgrade has been described as a "fiasco", with a budget blowout of $660,000 so far.
Councillor Mike Cardiff said he voted against the pay increase. "I did not deem it to be appropriate or realistic because the magnitude of the increase is extremely difficult to justify at this particular time."
Councillor Tony Lloyd said $44,000 was a lot of money, but Mr Dougherty did a "bloody good job; if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys".
Mayor Jenny Rowan issued a statement confirming the pay rise late yesterday afternoon after inquiries by The Dominion Post.
Mr Dougherty had been paid significantly less than counterparts in similar-sized councils "yet overseeing a portfolio of diverse and highly significant projects", she said.
Councillors based their decision on their assessment of Mr Dougherty's performance, specialist advice and comparable salary data.
The advice recommended a median salary of $280,000.
"Based on that advice, the council set the CE salary at $285,000," Ms Rowan said.
"I am acutely aware the increase comes at a time when things are tough for many, but it reflects Mr Dougherty's performance as a highly effective CE and the need to retain his skills and ensure continuity in a competitive marketplace.
"Council is ever mindful about the cost impact of major projects and will be driving staff to seek to trim budgets during the long-term plan process beginning next month."
Mr Turver said the council's claim that the pay rise recognised market demand and relativity in salary levels with other districts was no justification.
"That is perpetuating an entrenched ratcheting approach in local government where already high salaries go up every year with no real justification when times are hard."
Grey Power spokeswoman Betty van Gaalen said the increase was irresponsible.
"We're concerned about affordability and I really thought they would have had more sense."
HOW COUNCILLORS VOTED
Tony Lester: Not present for the vote but said the salary review process was exactly as he had experienced in the public sector and "pretty much what I expected to occur".
KGurunathan: Not present for the vote but said, according to remuneration experts, Mr Dougherty's salary was below the acceptable average for Kapiti's size, population and council staff numbers.
Mike Cardiff: Voted against the increase because he "did not deem it to be appropriate or realistic".
Peter Ellis: Said he could not remember which way he voted. He believed the salary should be comparative with the chief executives of other similar-sized councils.
Tony Lloyd: Voted for the increase, saying $44,000 was a lot of money, but Mr Dougherty did a "bloody good job".
Ross Church: Voted for the increase, saying that when they assessed the salary they found Mr Dougherty was grossly underpaid.
Penny Gaylor: Voted for the increase. "I understand the complexities of the role and the level the salary should be set at."
Hilary Wooding: Voted for the increase, saying that Mr Dougherty had been underpaid. "His salary was not on a par with other CEs of similar size councils."
Mayor Jenny Rowan: Could not be reached last night. Said in a statement the salary increase was based on Mr Dougherty's performance, specialist advice and comparative salary data.
Roger Booth and Diane Ammundsen could not be reached.
Council chief executive salary packages and pay rises:
Wellington City Council CEO Garry Poole: $419,230, $13,000 (3.2 per cent) pay rise in 2011.
Greater Wellington regional council CEO David Benham: $371,495, $21,193 (6 per cent) pay rise in 2011.
Horizons Regional Council CEO Michael McCartney: $281,761, $8200 (3 per cent) pay rise in 2011.
Hutt City Council CEO Tony Stallinger: $329,332, $5638 (1.7 per cent) pay rise in 2011.
Kapiti Coast District Council CEO Pat Dougherty: $285,000, $44,000 (18.3 per cent) pay rise in 2011.
Masterton District Council CEO Wes ten Hove: $183,000. No increase in past three years.
Palmerston North City Council CEO Paddy Clifford: $329,800. Pay increase of 3.9 per cent offered in 2011 but declined.
Porirua City Council CEO Gary Simpson: $298,000, $18,000 (6.4 per cent) pay rise in 2011
Upper Hutt City Council CEO Chris Upton: $247,724 (new CEO)
Wanganui District Council CEO Kevin Ross: $247,250, $9250 (4 per cent) pay rise in 2011.
Carterton District Council CEO Colin Wright: $156,000, $3000 (2 per cent) pay rise in 2011.
Central Hawke's Bay District Council CEO John Freeman: $176,000, $6000 (3.5 per cent) pay rise in 2011.
Hastings District Council CEO Ross McLeod: $276,832, $22,591 (8.9 per cent) pay rise in 2011.
Horowhenua District Council CEO David Ward: $219,092, $14,092 (6.9 per cent) pay rise in 2011.
Rangitikei District Council CEO Clare Hadley: $200,900, $9000 (4.7 per cent) pay rise in 2010.
Ruapehu District Council CEO Peter Till: $182,665 (new CEO).
South Wairarapa District Council CEO Jack Dowds: $184,750, $6250 (3.4 per cent) pay rise in 2011.
Tararua District Council CEO Blair King: $190,000, No increase at last review in 2011, but extra week of leave added.
Taupo District Council CEO Rob Williams: $293,198, $12,738 (4.5 per cent) pay rise in 2011.
Wairoa District Council CEO Peter Freeman: $188,474. No increase in past two reviews.
Councils that did not return calls or provide information: Hawke's Bay Regional Council, Napier City Council.
Do you always wear a helmet while cycling?Related story: Cyclists creative on cycle helmet waivers