Bourn announces donation of raise back to Park Board in staff-wide email, upsetting other commissioners

Upset over process behind receiving raise, Bourn decides to give his back. Now new rule dictates only Park Board president can authorize all-staff communications.

Credit: Bourn for Parks Facebook page

Commissioner Brad Bourn (District 6) was uncomfortable with the process Park Board commissioners used to give themselves a raise, so he announced in a staff-wide email that he will be donating his $883 pay increase back to the Park Board.

Commissioners decided to give themselves an 8 percent raise — their first raise since 2006 and less than the City Council, the mayor or the average pay increase full-time Park Board employees received in the same timeframe — on Dec. 18, which was the last Park Board meeting of the commissioners’ four-year term. 

At that meeting Bourn argued that the resolution should have been discussed in the Administrative and Finance Committee first, allowing for several weeks of public comment, then considered at the next Park Board meeting for final passage.

Other commissioners acknowledged his concern, but passed the pay increase anyway because it was the last chance for the outgoing board to vote on a pay increase for the next, incoming board, which is a standard procedure across all levels of government. Two new commissioners were elected alongside seven incumbents in the 2013 municipal election.

The raise will be enacted incrementally over four years. Last year commissioners made $11,040 and the board president made $12,339.

On Jan. 21 Bourn sent an email that went out to every Park Board employee thanking them for their hard work in 2013 and explaining why he would be donating his pay increase.

“I don’t believe taking a pay increase for myself before I know what our front line employees pay will look like creates the kind of work environment that I’ve tried hard to foster and so, I’ve decided to donate my pay increase for 2014 back to the Minneapolis Park Board,” he wrote. Bourn later told The Journal that he heard from a number of Park Board staffers that shared his concerns over the process behind the raise, and the amount of the pay increase.

Park Board President Liz Wielinski responded with another staff-wide email sent out two days later, admonishing Bourn for “allud[ing] to how commissioner compensation is determined as being some sort of shady back room deal meant to disenfranchise our employees.”

At the Feb. 5 Park Board meeting, a resolution amending Park Board rules to prohibit any commissioner from sending a staff-wide email unless authorized by the Park Board president passed the Standards and Conduct Committee after a lengthy, at times heated discussion.

“[Staff] doesn’t want to get dragged into inter-board squabbles. It’s not fair to them, and as professionals, and as board members we should just leave them out of it,” said Commissioner Jon Olson (District 2). “I think people felt like they were being dragged in and it’s not healthy, it’s not good.”

Last year Bourn spoke out against the long-held policy of providing free golf passes to elected officials in Minneapolis, which prompted the Park Board to terminate that program.