MANATEE -- A majority of Manatee County commissioners have indicated they plan to return or donate to charity part or all of a $272 annual salary increase after Commission Chairman Carol Whitmore sought to return hers and asked colleagues to follow suit.
Commissioner Joe McClash intends to keep his raise, which ups the annual salary of each commissioner to $75,079.
McClash said in an email that what he receives helps to offset money needed to publish his Internet website.
“It is a direct deposit to the account,” he added. “I do this because I feel it is a news product needed in our community.”
McClash also took the opportunity to slam Whitmore, accusing her of “political grandstanding,” to which she shot back in an email reply: “How dare you insult me, but I would never expect anything less from you.”
Other commissioners who plan to follow Whitmore’s lead include Robin DiSabatino, Michael Gallen, John Chappie and Larry Bustle. County Commissioner Donna Hayes could not be reached for comment.
“Count me on board to return the rest of my raise to the state,” wrote Bustle in an email message to R.B. “Chips” Shore, Manatee County clerk of circuit court and comptroller.
Last week, Whitmore told the board she wanted to give the raise back to the county because other county employees have not enjoyed raises this year.
In trying to give the money back, however, Whitmore encountered a stumbling block: it would incur staff costs to honor her request, Shore wrote, adding, “There are no clear rules as to how a commissioner may refuse the increase.”
Whitmore later settled on donating the amount she has already received to charity, requesting that the rest not be paid to her.
State law requires the Florida Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research calculate salary adjustments each year for constitutional officers, then notify them of any changes in their pay, according to Renee Watters, chief of public information for the Florida Department of Revenue. The amount of the raise is based on the consumer price index, population of the county and other factors.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.