The Booneville City Council last week approved former Mayor Brian Mueller drawing a retirement equal to one-half of the current mayoral salary.
Mueller, who is currently the city attorney, served as mayor of Booneville from 1991-2002, making him eligible for the retirement benefits.
“Once I turn 60 I become eligible for retirement. I guess the question is, based on the way the statute reads is do I get half the mayor’s salary at the time that I left office or do I get half the mayor’s salary at the time that I turned 60,” said Mueller.
The former mayor understands it to be half the salary when he retired, not left the position.
Mueller provided documentation of an Attorney General opinion in 2005 that found the benefit to be half the amount of the salary at the time of leaving office, as well as one from 2009 in which the AG, when the finding was the opposite.
“In my opinion it’s a much more rounded opinion,” Mueller said of the more recent finding. “It talks about referring not to a person but to the office of the mayor.”
Mueller turned 60 on Aug. 2 and notified city officials of his intent to draw the benefit, which current mayor Jerry Wilkins confirmed. Wilkins said then he was uncertain which benefit is proper.
“My situation is unique because I was so young. I wish I could have retired at age 46, that would have been great,” said Mueller. “Also I didn’t retire, I lost an election to Mayor Wilkins.”
“Sorry about that,” Wilkins said, drawing a laugh.
Wilkins noted the difference in the benefit is $487.50 per month.
“I didn’t want to make the decision. I wanted to bring it to the council,” said Wilkins.
Alderman Steve Reid said the opinion from the Attorney General is so close to the situation for Wilkins.
“The response is that it’s reasonable to construe that an individual qualifies for mayor retirement is entitled to receive a retirement benefit equal to one-half of the mayor’s salary payable to the office of the mayor, at the time when the individual become eligible,” said Reid.
Alderman Eddie Gossett, who moved to pay the benefit at half the current salary, said “to me it is plain.”
“I was on the council when Brian was the mayor and he was a good mayor,” Gossett said after the unanimous vote.
“I beat him in an election and we’re just as good friends as we were before the election,” Wilkins said.
The council also approved a $1,000 bonus for all city employees to be paid in December.
“We haven’t been able to give the employees a raise in the last couple of years and with gas going down and stuff going down we have been able to save enough money to be able to do it at Christmastime,” said Wilkins.
City Clerk Gayleene West concurred that the city is financially able to give the bonuses.
Employees typically receive a $100 bonus in December.