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Council Votes to Raise Attorney's Salary

Councilor Renee Baskerville cited 'economic times' as the reason she voted against the increase.

The Montclair Council voted Tuesday to give the township attorney a pay raise, bumping his salary from $86,000 to $125,000. 

Township attorney Ira Karasick will see at 45 percent increase in his salary. The ordinance passed with only Councilor Renee Baskerville voting against it. 

Citing cost savings in the legal department, Mayor Robert Jackson said the township has brought more work in-house which has decreased the department’s expenses from up to $600,000 in previous years to below $300,000. 

“Overall, I think the notion of bringing services inside is a good idea,” said Jackson, “because we save a lot of money.” 

The additional legal services Karasick has provided the township outside the scope of his original contract, such as handling tax appeals and redevelopment work, raised his compensation to approximately $106,000 last year and $111,000 in 2011.

By raising Karasick’s salary now and increasing his workload, said Councilor Sean Spiller, the township will actually save taxpayers money. 

“By bringing this work in-house, we are reducing our legal fees substantially,” said Spiller. “Bottom line, that’s a savings to the taxpayer. If we pay a little more in-house to save a lot more out of house, than I think it’s a wise financial decision.” 

Baskerville, the lone council member against the salary raise, said her decision was not a reflection of the job Karasick is doing, "but a reflection of the economic times."

“We’re in such times where we are grappling with our public safety works for a 1.9 percent increase ... and I could just not find it in myself to feel very comfortable about ... a raise.” 

I'd-Rather-Be-at-63 February 28, 2013 at 11:28 PM
That this happens at a time when teacher's cannot even achieve a less than 3% raise and a reasonable benefits scheme is an embarrassment to the town as a whole. The Town Council recently praised itself and the Board of Education for the surplus in the education budget. They never mentioned the teachers who had quietly sacrificed what they had already gained in contract negotiations to help the town. Suggesting that the Board of Education is doing this to the teachers all on their own without looking over their shoulder's to please the developers on the Town Council is naive at best. The Board of Education needs to stop playing politics with the town's teachers and the students. The BOE's filing of an impasse with the state and then feigning good faith at the negotiating table is telling.
rak March 01, 2013 at 12:45 AM
Mr. Karasick is not a salaried employee and is not receiving other benefits (healthcare vacation, pension) nor is he part of a union negotiation. Your comparison is not apples to apples. He can be fired at any time without union representation or protection. I hadn't received a pay increase in 3 years because of the "recession" and my health insurance premiums and copays were increasing with every year. My performance appraisals were excellent so I decided to a look for a new position with another company. My employer gave me a counter offer but I decided to move on. They found someone else to fill the position (I'm sure he/she are doing a great job) and I enjoy my new job. If the teachers are unhappy with their current position they should move on because there are other excellent teachers looking for new positions and change is GOOD!
I'd-Rather-Be-at-63 March 01, 2013 at 01:33 AM
rak, please read more carefully. Of course, we could all ask for a 45% raise for our part-time employment and if we receive so much the better for us personally. The question was not regarding Ira Karasick's request, but with regard to the Town Council's spending public monies in this way. If Mr. Karasick was not happy with what he was being paid, the Town Council should have more reasonably advertised the position to see if other lawyers equally good or better would be willing to do it for the same amount of compensation. But your point misses something more important that is also expressed in the BOE's negotiating: a sort of take it or leave it, people are expendable, and we will make the schools in Montclair into a free market with teachers and teacher aids coming and going every year or every three months. We cannot reasonably expect teachers to show commitment to their students above and beyond their contracts, and even accept cuts in their contracts to help the community, and then say to them we don't really care if you stay in our school system. IMHO it is hard to believe that the teachers and teacher aids can comprehend how the Town Council gives a 45% raise to a part-time employee and the School Superintendent proposes hiring 7 full time employees for teaching evaluation at a cost of 3/4 of a million dollars and at the same time those who teach the town's children are treated so poorly and with such little respect.
MsInquisitor March 04, 2013 at 03:17 AM
$125K is a lot of money, but not for this position. Do some research - Good Luck finding an *experienced* lawyer in the NY/NJ area who would agree to $125K for a part-time position.
I'd-Rather-Be-at-63 March 04, 2013 at 01:11 PM
The Town Council should have done the research before agreeing to a 45% raise for a part-time public employee. The very simple, transparent and responsible way to have done this would have been for the Town Council to advertise the position. There are many highly competent and experienced lawyers who would be happy to have a part-time position for $125,000. The concern as to the independence and reliability of Mr. Karasick's advice to the Town Council is now even more questionable. The impression was already widely there that this lawyer was simply providing legal arguments for the Town Council to proceed with its misguided development plans. Why did Mr. Karasick request a 45% pay increase and why did the Town Council agree to it? What are the mutual benefits?

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