Amidst a growing controversy, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced Wednesday he will not give a raise to Seattle City Light CEO Jorge Carrasco.
The Seattle City Council recently authorized an increase of up to $119,000 a year for Carrasco, who was already the city's highest paid employee at $245,000 a year.
"At this time, until we've sorted out the issues of contracts, until we've rebuilt trust, and until we have established a process that determines both the salary band and the salary itself, I am not going to raise the superintendent's salary," Murray said.
He and the Seattle City Council will reexamine a potential pay raise for Carrasco.
"We need to pay public employees what they're worth, and I don't believe their salaries should be a political football," Murray said. "We will develop, in the months ahead, an independent process to determine what is the appropriate salary for the appropriate position."
The mayor had previously said Carrasco deserved a raise because he is not paid as well as the leaders of other public utilities around the country, including Tacoma Power.
But Carrasco and the mayor have come under fire for the increase. Carrasco has drawn additional criticism for City Light's $17,500 contract with Brand.com to burnish the utility's image online, as well as his falling for a scam in which he gave access to a City Light salvage yard to several men who stole tens of thousands of dollars in copper wire.
Murray cited both in a news conference Wednesday, announcing he would not approve the raise.
"It raises questions of judgment and questions of trust," he said.
Carrasco also came under criticism after first claiming in an interview with KIRO Radio's Jason Rantz that he did not seek a pay raise. After numerous inquiries from KIRO Radio's Brandi Kruse, Seattle City Light issued a statement Monday evening admitting Carrasco had indeed asked for an increase to his "pay band."
Socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant released the following statement Wednesday:
"This striking reversal is the outcome of strong public pressure on the City's political establishment and a sign of the disgust working people feel about executive excess."
Sawant went on to say that she and councilmember Nick Licata voted no against the raise in full committee.
"This reversal is also a direct result of having a socialist elected representative, without which this issue would have been business-as-usual in City Hall."
Sawant, who makes $117,000 annually but claims to donate everything over $40,000, wants all city salaries capped at $150,000 and all city workers brought up to at least $15 an hour immediately.