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UNION OPPOSES RAISES FOR 'POLITICALLY CONNECTED'

The head of Buffalo's white-collar union is assailing a city plan to give 8 percent to 9 percent salary upgrades to about 10 management-level employees one month after the budget process was wrapped up.

The plan ignited so much controversy Thursday that the Masiello administration abandoned an earlier push to increase the salary of one city administrator by 33 percent, effective July 1.

Michael H. Hoffert, president of Local 650, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, characterized the salary upgrades as a sneaky attempt to "take care of politically connected" employees.

Hoffert said it's hypocritical for the cash-strapped city to give larger raises to some employees when the new budget sets aside funding for only 2.5 percent salary increases.

He said his office received numerous complaints when word spread about the salary adjustments. "We're always hearing that the city has no money. But I guess money can be found when they want to upgrade their own," said Hoffert.

He also warned that the upgrades, which are to be considered by the Common Council on Tuesday, could complicate ongoing contract negotiations. The city is negotiating new contracts with six unions, including locals that represent blue- and white-collar employees, police officers and firefighters.

"We won't accept any cuts in benefits for white-collar employees with these kind of things going on," Hoffert said. "Our employees are underpaid."

One city staffer who is line to receive a 9.1 percent raise is Linda Scott, assistant director of the city's Bureau of Administrative Adjudication. Scott, the daughter of Common Council Majority Leader Rosemarie LoTempio, has essentially been running the bureau, according to Mayor Anthony M. Masiello. Plans originally called for Scott's salary to increase by $14,461 -- or 33 percent. Only after critical e-mails began circulating throughout City Hall did officials announce that the proposed upgrade was being reduced to 9.1 percent.

But Masiello defended Scott's increase.

"We haven't filled the director's position in that bureau," said Masiello. "She has been doing all the work over there. We're actually saving money by doing it like this."

The other affected positions include the director of employee relations, the supervisor of licenses, two administrative positions in the Common Council, and several planning positions. Smaller upgrades ranging between 1 percent and 3 percent would be given to several other management-level employees. In total, the upgrades proposed for 14 employees would cost the city $45,670 annually.

Some critics argue that all salary upgrades should be considered before a new budget is passed in late May. In fact, several upgrades were approved as part of the new spending plan, including raises for three administrators in the city clerk's office.

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