Shamed by Outcry, Watertown Council Abandons Plan to Cut New Mayor’s Pay

Boy, if anybody had a good reason for cutting newly elected Watertown mayor Sarah Caron’s pay, they didn’t bring it up at last night’s Watertown City Council meeting. With more than 50 residents packing the meeting room, and with Mayor Caron quietly recusing herself and letting council president Bruce Buhler conduct the debate, councilors unanimously killed dropping Caron’s pay to $69,360 from the $80,437.20 the council thought the man she beat, Steve Thorson, was worth.

Councilman Buhler whined that his feelings were hurt when citizens accused the council of sexist retribution against Caron for beating Steve Thorson.

Facing accusations that the council proposed the reduction because of alleged retribution against Caron as well as creating a gender pay gap, Council President Bruce Buhler rejected those accusations, telling the crowd measuring over 50 people that he was a little bit hurt.

“This council is an honorable and honest group. There are no hidden agendas,” Buhler said [Dan Crisler, “City Council Unanimously Rejects Mayoral Salary Reduction,” Watertown Public Opinion, 2017.07.17].

Funny: the council is still hiding the agenda that motivated the pay cut.

Councilman Glen Vilhauer said the proposal came from the city finance office, and he commended them for bringing forward an idea that he voted against. That’s also funny: if I were a councilman, I wouldn’t commend my staff for bringing forward an idea with no policy brief explaining its justification, no apparent precedent in any government office (I’m still looking for an example of any jurisdiction that pays its elected executive or legislative officers based on experience or longevity—we sure didn’t do it with zero-experience Donald Trump!), and no broader application to other government positions (why no comparable cut for council members?) to prevent a controversy that makes my council look like a bunch of mean-spirited good old boys trying to attack a newly elected mayor.

If any members of the Watertown City Council were trying to knock Mayor Sarah Caron down a peg, they failed miserably. They turned out Caron supporters—informally polled by Buhler, nearly everyone in the audience raised a hand against the pay cut—and made themselves look bad, while Mayor Caron came out looking cool and mayoral.

11 Responses to Shamed by Outcry, Watertown Council Abandons Plan to Cut New Mayor’s Pay

  1. Nick Nemec

    Any idea who proposed this, and why?

  2. Still no good explanation, Nick. That’s a strong suggestion that whoever did put it on the agenda did not have good intentions.

  3. Shelly Alvine

    David J Law reports this morning that the City Finance Officer has resigned.

  4. Roger Elgersma

    She pointed out the previous mayor spending city resourses on his own behalf. He did not get a pay cut so the voters did it for him. Now they blame the one who is for not wasting money, clearly not a good reason.

  5. Interesting, Shelly! The Watertown Public Opinion also says that resignation may have been submitted yesterday. Hmm… so why would the City Finance Officer resign? I hear that the mayor doesn’t have the power to fire the city finance officer; only the council can fire.

  6. Mayor Caron confirms: city finance officer Shelly Ebbers has submitted her resignation. Ebbers will stay in the job through the city budgeting process, through September. Ebbers has given no reason for her resignation.

  7. Porter Lansing

    Also, Public Opinion publisher Mark Roby resigned today.

  8. Boy, this is really getting good, hope no one turns up missing. This is SD, you know.

  9. mike from iowa

    Quick, somebody hit yer knees and ask god what happened. :)

  10. Good Ole Boy network in Watertown has taken some hits lately. Topped off by the council debating a issue that embarrassed the city while it could have been pulled off agenda by council president Bruce Buhler. He definitely wanted to get his licks in on Mayor Caron. It back fired and Mayor Caron showed how Brilliant she is she joined the audience to watch the immature leadership for Watertown self destruct and they did just thats

  11. Porter Lansing

    Yes, Watertown’s started to come around, Sam@. Mark Roby’s newspaper has been quite helpful. Hoping his resignation won’t usher in a replacement less apt to stand up against the city council.