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Brandi Jewett, Forum Communications, Published September 12 2012

Grand Forks mayor defends $25K raise for city department head

GRAND FORKS - Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown has come under fire for his decision to provide a city department head with a nearly $25,000 raise this year.

Pete Haga, the city community / government relations officer, received the raise in May after his position was reviewed by the city’s human resources office.

Prior to the raise, Haga was making about $71,000.

Brown said he did the right thing.

“Pete earns every penny of that salary,” he said. “I’m very comfortable and confident in my decision.”

Haga declined to comment on the raise.

The issue of Haga’s pay increase was raised at the Sept. 4 City Council meeting. Council member Terry Bjerke announced that a city department head — whom he did not name at the meeting — had received a $25,000 raise without council knowledge.

The pay increase was included in the 2013 budget documents, but council members think they should have been consulted beforehand.

“It wasn’t something that jumped out at you from the page,” said City Council President Hal Gershman on Tuesday. “The mayor needs to step up and explain his decision.”

Brown was absent from the meeting. The council gave preliminary approval to the budget, which will be reviewed for final adoption on Sept. 17.

Pay on par

Haga has served as the city’s community/government relations officer since November 2002. In this position, he also acts as the director of the public information center. The center falls under the mayor’s oversight in the budget.

Before accepting his current position, Haga was a communications officer for the information center for five years.

The review process for Haga’s position began when he applied for UND’s newly created vice president of university and public relations in the spring.

A university hiring committee selected him as one of three finalists for the position. Haga’s on-campus interview was held the second week of April.

After Haga showed him the resume submitted for his vice president position application, Brown said it was obvious Haga was not being properly compensated.

“It’s probably my fault we didn’t look at this position sooner,” he said. “It was right under my nose.”

The city reviews positions periodically to ensure the employee is being paid appropriately, Brown said.

A review of Haga’s position was requested by Brown, and human resources approved a raise in May.

The raise puts Haga on track with other city department heads, a majority of which earn more than $100,000 a year.

Brown maintains the review process was followed correctly and nothing was hidden from the council.

“There are no secrets in government,” he said.

Gershman said he hopes the mayor will discuss future matters such as this more openly with the council before making a decision.

“This should not happen again,” he said.

City salary comparison

• Mayor Mike Brown (part-time): $24,000

Department heads

• Maureen Storstad, finance director: $92,997

• Pete Haga, community/government relations officer: $95,534

• John Herz, city assessor: $98,987

• Brad Gengler, city planner: $100,027

• Roxanne Fiala, information technology director: $100,152

• Gregory Hoover, urban development director: $101,254

• Daryl Hovland, human resource director: $101,920

• Donald Shields, public health director: $103,480

• Allen Grasser, city engineer: $112,341

• Peter O’Neill, fire chief: $114,504

• John Packett, police chief: $123,157

• Todd Feland, public works director: $123,989

• Richard Duquette, city administrator: $124,030

Editor’s note: Pete Haga is the son of Grand Forks Herald staff writer Chuck Haga