ATLANTIC CITY - City Council members approved an ordinance Wednesday night that establishes the base pay for the resort's seven department heads at $90,000 per year.
Some of the employees will see an increase of nearly $15,000 from their current salaries, and the measure will cost the city $57,000 next year, said Michael Stinson, director of the city's Division of Revenue and Finance.
There are four positions eligible for the increase because the other three already earn at least that much.
Council members Timothy Mancuso, Aaron Randolph, Frank Gilliam, Steven Moore and George Tibbitt approved the increase, while Mo Delgado and Marty Small opposed the measure.
"My (‘no') vote was based on what we're looking at into the future," Delgado said. "We're not sure what we're looking at next year."
The measure was approved despite city employees filling council chambers and expressing concern that the city was rewarding those who already earn enough.
"It's kind of a shame," William Atkins, president of Local 2303, the Atlantic City Municipal Employees Union, said during public comment. "I've been working with the city more than 15 years, and my salary is too embarrassing to say."
Many of the blue-collar workers shouted they were earning salaries of just about $20,000 annually. Some who spoke against the raises said it was unfair to address salaries for department heads while some unionized employees are working without a contract.
Mayor Lorenzo Langford said the measure was a matter of equality.
"There is a tremendous disparity ... they deserve to be compensated just like anybody else," Langford said.
Ron Cash, the director of Health and Human Services who has worked for the city for nearly three decades, said he makes about $15,000 less than a junior department head.
"Next year, if I don't get an increase, I'm sure to make more money ... as a health officer than I am as a director," he said, adding he would need to consider what's best for his family.
In other business, Solicitor Bruce Ward pulled from the agenda the second reading of an ordinance that would have banned sleeping on the Boardwalk.
The ordinance was pulled because it included language that stated drunk people or those under the influence of drugs could not be on the Boardwalk, city streets, sidewalks, public pavilions, public parks or other public places within the resort. Ward said that language was against state law.
"We're going to bring it back in a different form without conflict language," Ward said.
He said the rewrite would change the ordinance "significantly" because a state municipality cannot criminalize those actions.
Additionally, an ordinance that would remove a question on city job applications pertaining to criminal history was approved on first reading. The ordinance would result in applicants being asked about their specific backgrounds during interviews rather than on initial applications.
Gilliam supported the proposed change, which is a national movement to increase employment opportunities for ex-convicts.
"Atlantic City will never be safe or clean if you don't look out for the ex-offender population," he said.
Under new business, council members approved a license for Starr Hill Presents - promoter of The Dave Matthews Band Caravan that played at Bader Field this past summer - to use the field again in 2012 for two music festivals. One festival will be held June 15-17 and the other June 24-25.
While city officials were tight-lipped on the potential musical acts that may come to the city, some councilmen were concerned with the process.
Gilliam said he thought the process should include City Council before it is brought up for approval in the future.
Ward said his office had been handling communications with Starr Hill representatives, including Atlantic City attorney Joe Dougherty, for the past two months.
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