The Town Council on Tuesday approved a policy that sets the salary of the registrars of voters but scrutinizes more closely the extra compensation they receive during election time.
The vote was 7-5 along party lines with the Republican majority prevailing.
The salaries for Democratic Registrar Judith Beaudreau and Republican Registrar John Anderson are fixed at $27,000 each.
The registrars also traditionally get a stipend that amounted last time around to $2,244 each for extra time worked during election periods, but the new policy stipulates that the council must approve any additional compensation.
The vote ended a night of intense debate over the topic with council members describing the extra compensation both as a "stipend" and a "per diem" rate.
Council Democrats asked Beaudreau how many hours a week she works during election time and her response was that it could reach 100 to 150 hours in a week.
Democrats have been arguing that the new policy effectively endorses a pay cut.
Republican Bill Campbell disagreed.
"This is not a pay cut," he said. "This is just oversight by the Town Council that is necessary."
Democrat Michael Winkler said the new policy is another chapter in a "toxic relationship" that has existed between the registrars and the Republicans over the past few years.
"I was hoping we could eliminate that," Winkler said. "This is just another slap at the registrars from the council and it is just foolishness."
The stipends are part of the payroll and have been automatically paid out, town officials said. The rate is roughly $1,000 per election, primary or referendum.
Republican John Kopec said the approval policy "clarifies what total monies are being paid to the registrars," while adding, "It makes the stipends see the light of day." He added it makes the process "transparent."
Democrat Thomasina Russell, clearly annoyed over the debate, wondered aloud, "The money is already in the budget. Why reinvent the wheel?"
The registrars office is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday during non-election times.
Democrat Thomas DiDio said he wanted to inject some logic in the discussion and moved to amend the motion to make the salary $29,250 and by-pass "the per diem." It was seconded by Michael Winkler and the Republicans quickly called for a short recess.
When the session resumed the Democrats argued in favor of the higher salary to end the stipend/per diem disagreements. The Republicans stood firm and maintained that all extra compensation should require approval.
Mayor George Apel said that the two elections last time could pale in comparison to a lengthly budget approval process, so the approval rule makes sense.
Democrat Marie Herbst, citing the delicate legal balance of paid elected officials, abstained from the vote on the amendment and it failed 7-4.
The majority then carried the main motion.
"All department heads come away from that chair with the same feeling - like they have just visited their in-laws," Deputy mayor Brian Motola said to the registrars. "We're just watching every penny."
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