By Amanda Rogers
The Mansfield City Council heard from a couple of residents after they learned that the council had included a $1,000 per month stipend for each member in the 2022-2023 city budget.
Council members had been unpaid until January when the stipends began.
“Your lack of transparency is showing,” Brandon Frizzell told the council during citizen comments at the Feb. 13 council meeting. “I have no issues with elected officials being paid.”
Frizzell questioned why the stipends, which will add up to $84,000 annually divided by seven council members, were placed under contractual services in the city budget.
“To my knowledge, none of the members of the council has a contract with the city,” said Frizzell, who said he discovered the stipends in a freedom of information request.
“Most folks don’t care if y’all are paid, they only care about transparency,” he said. “How are residents supposed to trust the members of this body?”
Resident Houston Mitchell also questioned why the stipends were not public knowledge.
“Y’all do too much stuff back there that we don’t know about,” Mitchell said. “Y’all decided to start paying yourselves. Why didn’t you come out here and tell us about it?”
Larry Klos, president of the Mansfield Economic Development Corp., defended the action.
“What you’re getting is not pay,” said Klos, who stated that the council should receive more. “What you’re getting is tip money.”
Kristen Flemingwood also said the council should be paid more.
“Neighboring councils are getting paid $3,000, $4,000 a month,” she said. “It’s a thankless job.”
Stoney Short, who is married to council member Julie Short, also spoke in defense of the stipends and the council.
“You guys put in more hours on council than most people put in on their jobs,” he said. “I appreciate you guys and what you do. Your integrity is above reproach. The money that she is getting paid – although it’s a lot of money for some people – does not touch what she is doing.”
Council members are not allowed to reply to citizen comments, however after consulting with the city attorney City Manager Joe Smolinski responded to the comments.
“Is taking compensation legal?” Smolinski asked. “It’s 100 percent legal. Voters approved it Aug. 11, 1979. Other cities in the Metroplex compensate members. As the city manager, I’ve tried for two years to get these folks to take some sort of compensation. $1,000 isn’t enough for what they do. If you took all of the hours, they make about $11.50 an hour.”
Smolinski said that the funds were budgeted in the 2021-2022 budget, but the council members refused to take them. He said that one member uses all of her PTO to serve on the council.
The city manager consulted with the city’s chief financial officer Troy Lestina about how the stipends were listed in the budget.
“It is proper to put them under contractual services according the GFOA (Government Finance Officers Association) Blue Book,” Lestina replied.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” Smolinski said. “When Troy and I prepare the budget this year, I will put an enormous slide on this wall that each of the council members gets $1,000 a month. I will put up there that this is not enough.”
Mansfield, Texas, is a booming city, nestled between Fort Worth and Dallas, but with a personality all its own. The city’s 76,247 citizens enjoy an award-winning school district, vibrant economy, historic downtown, prize-winning park system and community focus spread across 37 square miles. The Mansfield Record is dedicated to reporting city and school news, community happenings, police and fire news, business, food and restaurants, parks and recreation, library, historical archives and special events. The city’s only online newspaper launched in September 2020 and will offer introductory advertising rates for the first three months at three different rates.