COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – As a commission of residents was considering how much top city officials, including the mayor, should be paid, the office of Mayor Andrew J. Ginther was lobbying behind the scenes.

The five-member commission on election officials’ compensation, tasked with setting pay rates for top city officials every four years, voted unanimously April 27 to recommend a slate of raises to city council. Salaries increases would be:

  • City council president: 40% plus annual cost of living adjustment
  • Mayor: 14% plus annual cost of living adjustment
  • City council members: 13% plus annual cost of living adjustment
  • City attorney: 10% plus annual cost of living adjustment
  • City auditor: 5% plus annual cost of living adjustment

They would take effect in 2026.

Current Base Salary, 2022Proposed Base Salary, Effective 2026Percent Change
Mayor$205,571$234,350.94 + (unknown COLA)+14%
City Council President$73,687$103,161.80 + (unknown COLA) +40%
City Council Member$61,257$69,220.41 + (unknown COLA) +13%
City Attorney$195,842$215,426.20 + (unknown COLA) +10%
City Auditor$195,842 $205,634.10 + (unknown COLA) +5%
Data provided by the 2022 Citizens’ Commission on Elected Official Compensation

Before the commission, absent one member, approved the salary hikes with four resounding “ayes” via a video conference meeting, a point of contention was whether to include in their report that Ginther’s office lobbied in favor.

“I don’t feel I would want to give that impression to the public – that the elected officials appointed us and then pressured us,” commission member and retired attorney Fred Ransier said. “I want to make clear on the record to the public I don’t get bought that way, I came to do the job I was asked.”

In a report to the commission, Ginther’s office encouraged the panel to widen the gap between the mayor’s $205,571 salary and the $195,842 salaries of city attorney and auditor from 10% to 20% – citing the current 2.17% gap as “nominal and at a historic low when examining salary history over the last two decades.”

The mayor’s office argued that Ginther, who oversees nearly 8,000 employees, holds “significant and disparate responsibilities” relative to those of the city attorney and auditor.

“The City Attorney and City Auditor serve important roles in support of the Mayor and the City but are
more equivalent to the chief legal and chief financial officers within a corporation,” the mayor’s office said in its report. “And, like the private sector, it would be customary for the chief executive to be compensated commensurate with the responsibilities assumed as the leader of the organization.”

The gap between Gov. Mike DeWine’s $165,230 salary – which is $40,000 less than Ginther’s – and the $122,060 salaries afforded to state Auditor Keith Faber and Attorney General Dave Yost was also mentioned as evidence that salary should align with the “significant and inherent difference” of a chief executive’s responsibilities.

To drive their point home, the mayor’s office said Ginther is the only city officeholder in Columbus that’s prohibited from holding outside employment. 

Although the city attorney must be licensed to practice law in Ohio, the mayor’s office said “it is a misconception” that the city auditor and council members must hold qualifications required beyond those of the mayor.

“A college degree is not even required to serve on City Council,” the report said.

Robin Davis, a spokesperson for Ginther, said the mayor did not directly meet with or discuss salary recommendations with the commission. Pending the results of Columbus’ mayoral election in 2023, she noted that Ginther may not even be a recipient of the increase in salary.

“These wouldn’t go into effect until 2026, so unless Mayor Ginther is reelected, he himself wouldn’t benefit from that – it really has to do with the office,” Davis said.

The panel ultimately included comments from the mayor’s office within their report on the grounds of record-keeping and transparency – but added a disclaimer reiterating that suggestions from Ginther’s office were not key components in their vote to approve raises.

“Even though this occurred, right, it was not germane to our decision-making,” commission member and former OhioHealth executive Qiana Williams said during the meeting.

Using data from 16 of Columbus’ peer cities, the commission found that Ginther’s base salary ranks No. 2 in relation, surpassing the mayor’s salary in San Antonio, Texas ($61,725), Cleveland ($155,552) and Denver ($184,165). Ginther’s salary fell just $4,000 below that of the No. 1 peer city, Jacksonville/Duval County, Florida ($208,393).

While half of the 16 peer cities employ a city manager “who exercises substantial executive authority,” the Columbus mayor doesn’t, causing Ginther to shoulder most of the burden when it comes to governing the city, according to the panel’s report.

“The Commission thought it was important that the Mayor’s salary be increased to the median per capita salary of the peer cities so that the compensation did not lag behind,” the panel’s report said.

Before approving its recommendations, the commission acknowledged that doing so would widen the gap between the mayor’s pay and that of the city auditor and attorney.

The panel’s recommendations are now headed to the City Council, which will determine whether to enact the raises. The council, which has yet to schedule a vote, can accept the raises in full or in part, but no salary amount can surpass the commission’s proposals.

Read the commission’s letter in full below:

Read the report the Mayor’s office delivered to the commission: