County officials who voted themselves major pay hikes will have to return the money if a Tulsa area legislator gets his way. State Senator Kevin Easley formally filed legislation today which would rescind the pay raise granted to county officials in Tulsa and Oklahoma County.
"Clearly, some county officers took advantage of the situation and handed themselves exorbitant pay raises. I think we need to go back to square one and do something that's more in keeping with the public's wishes," said Senator Easley.
County officials in Tulsa County voted themselves a $20,000 pay hike in October, making them the highest-paid county officials in Oklahoma. Published reports also indicate the 30 percent salary hike put their pay well above the national average.
The legislation authored by Senator Easley would rescind the raises, returning salaries to their previous levels. Under the provisions of SB 26, only Tulsa and Oklahoma Counties would be impacted.
Easley said he is targeting the two urban counties because rural counties already have a citizen "check and balance" in place: an independent county excise board which must approve such pay actions.
"For the most part, county officials in the rural areas handled this issue responsibly. They shouldn't be punished just because some county officers in Tulsa went overboard," said Senator Easley.
The lawmaker decided to author the legislation after receiving a number of angry calls from his Tulsa constituents.
"The people I've heard from in the Tulsa area are upset and they have good reason to be. The one thing they've made clear is that we need to develop a better system for deciding compensation. That's what I hope to address with my legislation," said Senator Easley.
The county pay raises are currently being challenged in a court case, but the legislator indicated that should have no impact on his legislation.
"There's certainly been some confusion about legislative intent on this issue. No matter what the courts ultimately say, my legislation should help clarify any gray areas. At the very least, it will ensure that salaries are rolled back to a reasonable level," said Senator Easley.