SANDY — When he started as Sandy’s new boss last month, Mayor Kurt Bradburn gave himself a $15,000 one-time raise as part of a plan he said would keep overall costs low.
Friday, amid backlash, Bradburn apologized and gave it back.
“Alright guys, I’m more than willing to admit I got this salary decision wrong,” Bradburn wrote in a post on his Facebook page.
At the beginning of his term, Bradburn had decided to increase his salary from $147,000 to $162,000 as part of an office restructuring intended to consolidate staff and save money.
Bradburn said he meant to take on more responsibilities while also cutting staff and implementing a plan to only raise his salary once, by 10 percent, at the beginning of his term rather than taking a 6 percent pay raise each year, like former Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan did. Bradburn said the plan, including other employees’ salaries, was expected to save about $100,000 a year.
The mayor said he had “good intentions” behind the increase, meant to ultimately end up with a lower overall salary at the end of his term. “But I certainly didn’t mean for it to be a headline with the mayor giving himself a big pay raise.
“But I can see how it looks that way, and I know optics are important, and so I hope (residents) can support me and be patient with me,” Bradburn said. “My goal will always be if I make a mistake, I will own it and make it right, and I feel like that’s all we can expect of each other.”
Bradburn said Friday he told the city’s human resources director to reduce his salary to $119,000, among the lowest salaries of Utah’s full-time mayors. He also said he wrote a check to the city for about $5,600 to pay back what he has received so far.
At $162,000 a year, Bradburn would have been making more than other mayors in Utah’s largest cities.
During the 2017 fiscal year, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski earned about $140,000, not including benefits, according to her spokesman, Matthew Rojas. Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell took in about $129,000, and Provo’s former Mayor John Curtis took in about $110,000, according to Utah’s transparency website.
Bradburn said he was able to raise his salary himself because it didn’t change the overall budget of the mayor’s office.
But after media reports of Bradburn’s self-imposed pay raise, Alliance for a Better Utah’s policy and advocacy counsel Chase Thomas criticized Bradburn, pointing out he campaigned on promises to eliminate salary increases and bonuses in the mayor’s office.
“Who knew that answering your texts and scheduling your own appointments qualified you for a salary of $162,000,” Thomas said in a prepared statement issued Thursday night. “And two months on the job is hardly enough time to determine your work is worthy of a $15,000 raise.”
Thomas also criticized Bradburn for not running the decision by the City Council and urged the council to “demand an independent review of Bradburn’s actions” and to pass a new ordinance to prevent mayors from giving themselves pay increases in the future.
Bradburn said he had intended to present the budget changes to the council in March during the city’s budget process, but “if I had to do it all over again, I would approach the City Council first” and ask them to vote on it.
Bradburn said Friday he’s “great with” Alliance for a Better Utah’s demand for an ordinance requiring City Council approval before mayors can give themselves pay raises, adding that “it certainly wasn’t my intention to do it without their approval.”
“I hope people understand I’m new to this, and we were trying to do some new things,” Bradburn said. “I’m the first one to admit I could have done better, and I’ve definitely learned.”
Article by Katie McKellar with the Deseret News found here.