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Letter to the Editor
Wednesday, September 12, 2012 • Posted September 19, 2012

Dear Editor,

Did you know that Councilwoman Puryear scolded LlanoWatch during a Council meeting – with facts? We must have done something really egregious: The Councilwoman interrupted the Council meeting; Mayor Reagor lets her break his “not on the agenda” rule to do it; and Llano News had a headline on page one, above the fold. Let’s see what we did:

1. “erroneous ad” The ad exposing Finley deGraffenried’s raise was completely true. We showed the City’s budget reports, highlighted the numbers, and showed the math. Additionally, we have the Personnel Action at LlanoWatch.org. We asked the City what the error was and received the typical response: “the City does not have a document responsive to that request”. Finley chronically confuses the Texas Public Information Act for a Public Document Act.

2. “horrific … ad” “horrific” is an adjective, typically reserved for disasters and loss of life. Free speech and facts can be uncomfortable, not horrific. The reactions we have heard regarding Finley’s 15% raise and $87K salary include astonishment and anger. If anything is horrific, it is the raise, not the ad. The Council members who voted for the raise need to reflect on the facts and their judgment, not attack citizens who question it. The LlanoWatch ad sheds light on Llano City Government’s lack of salary norms and on the overspending of the taxpayers’ money.

3. “salary spreadsheets are always confidential” This is absolutely not true. The Texas Open Records Statute Section 552.022(2) says so. There are some cities like Coleman, TX, that post the salaries on their websites along with benefits. BTW, the city manager for Coleman (population 2X Llano) makes $60,005.

4. “salary … becoming public could trigger a source of discontent among employees” At most corporations, there is an unwritten rule regarding promotions, raises, bonuses, and awards: nobody should be surprised. Perhaps Council and the City want salaries secret because managers and staff make, on average, 79% ($59K vs. $33K) more than the skilled employees that keep the city running. Actually, only 49% of the City budget goes toward mission critical activities like water, electricity, and police. The City budget could be cut in half and not many citizens would notice. Of course there is discontent among employees - citizens too.

5. “the facts regarding the salary of Mr. deGraffenried” Council used a range created by the city manager, city secretary, and finance director. They decided the range for city manager was $63,813-$95,720. We at LlanoWatch did a survey of cities in Texas with similar populations. The range for city managers without a degree or some college was $45,000-$59,760. The range with a bachelor’s degree was $60,000-$76,095. With a masters degree $72,379.00 -$119,995 (Horseshoe Bay). In this light, our City manager was overpaid even before the 15% raise.

For a discussion of why a degree is a salary range determinant, as well as the City Manager’s merit increase, the “staggering number of PIA requests”, the Councilwoman’s original letter, and more, please see the article at LlanoWatch.org.

Marc Sewell

Llano, Texas

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