Kingsport BMA votes 5-1 for city manager pay raise

Matthew Lane • Sep 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — City Manager John Campbell got a bump in pay Tuesday night, with the Board of Mayor and Aldermen voting to increase his salary by 2.5 percent. But the pay hike did come with some lengthy questioning by Alderman Ken Marsh, who questioned the appropriateness of how the matter was handled.

The BMA voted 5-1 to give Campbell a 2.5 percent pay increase, thus taking his salary from $129,615 a year to $132,856 a year.

Campbell received a 4 percent increase back in July when the budget officially went into effect and at the same time every other city employee got their raises. At that time Campbell’s salary went from $124,630 a year to $129,615 a year.

This pay raise came at the recommendation of Mayor Dennis Phillips, who said the 2.5 percent increase takes Campbell’s total raise to 6.5 percent — the maximum any other city employee could receive and the same amount as 23 other city employees received back in July.

Campbell also received a 2 percent increase to his vehicle allowance, which will increase from $800 to $816 a month. Both increases will be retroactive to July 1, 2007.

Phillips said Campbell’s first year on the job had been outstanding.

“The thing I have learned a lot about being around John is how much he knows about the cities, the state and how important that is. I don’t think we’ve had that in a city manager in a long, long time,” Phillips said. “To be honest, I would have probably recommended more (of a salary increase) as I look around and see what some people are making and what he saves the city and based on his knowledge.

“But he made it perfectly clear that he would not accept any more increase than any employee got.”

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, Marsh said the BMA did not review Campbell’s performance in the spring, as per the contract, and said no one on the BMA knew Campbell received a 4 percent pay hike in July.

“It appears we have a 4 percent increase no one on this board knew about,” Marsh said, adding the raise was buried in the fiscal year 2008 budget resolution. “I doubt anyone on this board knew we were approving a 4 percent pay increase for (Campbell) when he’s been here seven months.

“How did we get to this point?”

“We got to this point because on July 1 all employees got pay raises, and it’s my recommendation from the mayor,” Phillips said. “I just have a major problem beating to death the city manager that’s doing a marvelous job, and to imply something was hid in the budget ... that puts me into orbit.”

City Attorney Mike Billingsley said there was a specific paragraph in the 2008 budget that addressed the city manager’s pay increase.

According to the budget, that reference was in Section C, page 4.

“It outlined the city manager would receive a standard 2 percent (cost of living adjustment) and a 2 percent step increase,” Billingsley said.

Marsh said none of the aldermen knew about the 4 percent increase.

“This is the first time in nine years it’s been handled that way, and I think it was intentionally handled that way,” Marsh said.

Vice Mayor Ben Mallicote called those comments “incredibly irresponsible.”

Alderman Larry Munsey said great things are happening in Kingsport, and that Campbell is one of the primary reasons.

“I think that he has done a tremendous job and there’s a lot of justification for two or three times this amount,” Munsey said. “He’s done a great job, and I don’t know why we’re having this discussion.”

Marsh said his “no” vote was not about Campbell, but the process in getting to the vote.

In other business Tuesday night the BMA:

•Approved the funding to purchase the Tri-City Linen and Uniform Co. property, which is a property city leaders envision to use, some way, in connection to the proposed academic village downtown. Marsh and Alderman Pat Shull voted against the measure.

•Allocated $11,752 to the Downtown Kingsport Association to help pay for rent and improvements in connection with the arts course being offered by East Tennessee State University in downtown Kingsport. Shull voted against the measure, calling the funds a subsidy for ETSU.

•Approved a $564,500 bid for the construction of the south access road to John Adams Elementary School — the new city school being built in the Rock Springs community.

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