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MAYOR DISMISSES PUBLIC COMPLAINTS, OKS PAY HIKES

Mayor Masiello has approved controversial raises for Buffalo's top elected officials, ranging from a high of 51 percent for Common Council President James W. Pitts to a low of 20 percent for Comptroller Joel A. Giambra, officials said today.

Masiello turned aside public complaints and signed a local law calling for the immediate salary increases, passed earlier this month by Common Council members in an 8-5 vote.

Under the measure, the mayor's own salary increases from $79,380 to $105,000. Council members will receive a 24 percent raise, boosting their salaries to $52,000.

"The bottom line is that elected officials have not received a raise in over six years, and there's no good time for an elected official to give himself a raise," said Masiello's chief of staff, Vincent J. LoVallo.

Responding to complaints voiced by residents during a public hearing earlier in the week, LoVallo said some would have criticized the raises, no matter what.

"Whether you raise them $100 or $1,000, those who are against a public official being compensated at a higher rate are going to complain," he said.

"The mayor runs an $800 million corporation with more than 3,000 employees and 325,000 citizens . . .," he said.

Adding to the controversy was a Council action taken last May to amend the City Charter and pave the way for immediate pay hikes.

Previously, lawmakers could vote themselves a raise, but it would not take effect until their next term of office.

Nearly 40 people showed up at a public meeting to oppose the raises, many of them complaining that the timing -- during work hours -- was designed to dampen public criticism.

However, LoVallo said the raises were recommended by a salary review commission made up of "true professionals," including an accountant, two ministers, a businesswoman and a retired federal housing official.

He also maintained that -- before the raises -- many city employees made more than top Buffalo officials.

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