Judge Rules County Commissioners Had No Authority When Voting Pay Raise

Friday, July 30th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A judge ruled Wednesday that Tulsa County commissioners can't get a $20,000 dollar pay raise they voted for themselves. Dozens of Oklahoma counties approved smaller raises and they could be in jeopardy too.

Tulsa County tax assessor Cheryl Clay would have also received a $20,000 dollar pay raise. "Obviously we're not going to get a raise. Whether or not I think I deserve it is another thing. We haven't had a pay raise in Tulsa County for 15 years, the elected officials haven't," said Clay.

The raises were rescinded because of a lawsuit filed by State Representative Chris Hastings. The lawsuit alleged the commissioners voted before they had the authority to do so. The judge agreed. Dozens of other county commissions voted for raises at the same time, but most for less than Tulsa. Muskogee commissioners voted for a $12,000 raise, but in Nowata County, the salaries rose by only $258.

In Tulsa, the county sheriff, treasurer, clerk, assessor, commissioners and other elected officials were subject to the pay raise. While the case was in court, more than $86,000 in pay was diverted and remains in a separate account. Representative Hastings says he's not aware of lawsuits to overturn raises in other counties. For now, Tulsa County's tax assessor says she's not worried about losing the raise. "You win a few and lose a few," Clay commented.

More than 50 of Oklahoma's 77 county commissions voted themselves pay raises. The legislature gave them the authority to do so last year.