The Linn County Board of Supervisors, as you may have heard, approved a $17,500 cut in supervisors’ pay starting next year as the panel expands to five members. They did it by changing the supervisors’ job designation from full time to part time.
Some of the Democratic board’s vocal GOP critics argued that the move was illegal. But it’s largely a politically motivated contention that probably isn’t going anywhere.
Deputy County Attorney Gary Jarvis insists there’s enough room in the Iowa Constitution’s “county home rule” section to allow for a change in status and pay. Critics instead point to the Iowa Code, which they say requires the board to work only within the confines of the County Compensation Board’s pay recommendations.
So let me get this straight, some of the same people who assailed the compensation board’s 6 percent pay hike advice are now arguing that the board should be sanctioned for finding a legal route around it? Curious.
Of course, Republicans’ real fear us that the board’s move may put the issue to bed and lessen their chances of taking over. So the longer they can keep the saga going, the better it is for GOP challengers.
There’s talk of asking Democratic Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller to weigh in, but I seriously doubt, No. 1, that he will get involved, or No. 2, that he would second-guess the board’s decision. His office has a long history of deferring to local officials.
So is anyone willing to embark on a what would likely be a two-year, or more, legal battle to overturn the pay cut? Good luck with that.
Sure, the critics may have a point. The Iowa Supreme Court in recent years has taken a very narrow view of home rule. Just ask Ames and Iowa City what happened when officials in those cities thought there was legal wiggle room for public smoking bans. The Supreme Court essentially ruled that of the Legislature didn’t expressly give you the power, you don’t have it. That case, incidentally, is how we got to the doorstep of a statewide smoking ban.
But the legal fight against local smoking bans was bankrolled by deep-pockets tobacco companies. I don’t see a similar monied patron stepping up in the pay cut case.
Republicans can still make the argument that $70,000 is a lot of money for a part-time job. And I suspect they will.