1 Word Could Make All the Difference for County Elected Officials' Pay Increases

Tuesday, August 3rd 2010, 3:11 pm
By: News 9

By Jennifer Pierce, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The change of one word in the law could mean a salary increase for elected county officials.

The uproar is over the change of "may" to "shall" in a House bill that Governor Henry signed into law. The difference could now give county officials the maximum salary allowed by law. The money would come from county property taxes.

Read the House bill

Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan said the change is an outrage, especially at a time when the state is facing a budget shortfall.

"Obviously someone was up to no good when they inserted this language," Maughan said. "It's just not a time to hand out raises to elected officials of all people."

Maughan went on national news defending his position and said the change was made in the final hours of session, which is a time when bills are typically rushed through committees.

One state lawmaker said this latest law change is another reason the state needs more transparency.

"I am planning to do what I can to push for changes that would slow the conference committee process down and open it up and provide the kind of transparency that Oklahomans would expect and deserve," said Rep. Kris Steele, R-Shawnee.

The change was made in a conference committee at the end of session. Senator Glenn Coffee and State Representative John Trebilcock authored the bill and signed the final committee report.

Read the House of Representatives Committee Conference Report

Coffee was not available for an interview. Rep. Trebilcock said the law does not mandate a pay raise if county officials reduce their base salary.

Oklahoma County Commissioners are holding a special meeting on Thursday to discuss the issue. The public is invited.