Shameless pay hikeLocal councilmen in South Chungcheong last Wednesday approved an ordinance to raise their annual salaries from 52.44 million won ($46,600) to 54.24 million won next year, in what amounts to a 3.4 percent increase. To state the obvious, it is extremely inappropriate for them to raise their salaries when their constituents are suffering from severe economic woes and unemployment. They deserve the sharp criticism that they were only looking after their own interests and defying their basic obligation to monitor how the local government spends people’s tax money.
It took only three minutes and six seconds for the councilmen to approve the salary hike. We are dumbfounded by the fact that among the 42 councilmen who cast votes, not one raised an objection, and they swiftly approved the bill without due process.
First of all, they clearly violated the Local Autonomy Law, which states that salary hikes for local councilmen must reflect the results of opinion polls. A committee had conducted a survey of 700 residents on a proposal to increase their salary by 2.3 percent, and 66.7 percent of respondents thought that was too high. Nevertheless, an absolute majority of councilmen voted in favor of a 3.4 percent increase.
There was a problem in the voting procedure too. On the day when they put the bill to a vote, they didn’t post it on the council’s Web site, as required by law. Instead, a committee handling the voting schedule passed the bill in the afternoon after unanimously deciding to put it to a vote in the morning. This amounted to a colossal dismissal of legal procedure and a disregard for the will of their constituents.
There are local councils that have not raised their salaries for years out of respect for their residents’ opinions, including provinces such as Gyeonggi and South and North Jeolla and such cities as Busan, Incheon and Daejeon. The South Jeolla Council, in particular, has decided to freeze the salaries of its members next year even though they earn the lowest salaries of 47.48 million won. Meanwhile, 67 local councils across the nation are reportedly planning to push ahead with salary hikes for 2012.
We are deeply worried that such a self-serving pay hike in South Chungcheong may cause a domino effect on other councils across the country. The Ministry of Public Administration and Security must investigate what went wrong in the local council and demand a revote on the bill. The best option, of course, would be a voluntary withdrawal of the earlier decision.