The Columbus City Council is restoring the former parks’ directors salary while it investigates whether they mayor had the authority to demote him.
The mayor reassigned the parks director last month to marketing coordinator, saying he had overspent his budget and misused the city’s credit card.
The city council voted unanimously to double Ben Wagner’s salary from about $40,000 to nearly $80,000—the same amount he was making as parks director.
City Council president pro tem Dascal Bunch says the council is questioning whether the mayor was justified in her actions.
“We can’t hire anybody in that position until we’ve figured out what is going with Ben,” Bunch says. “Did the mayor have the legal responsibilities to demote him?”
The city council is seeking legal counsel to review the case and is asking the mayor for more information to support her decision.
City Council member Jim Lienhoop says in the meantime, the council is trying to be fair to Wagner.
“We’re just trying to do the right thing, and the problem you come up against sometimes is it’s hard to figure out what the right thing is,” Lienhoop says.
The council also voted to increase the parks department’s director of business services’ salary by $5,000 while he assumes the parks’ director’s responsibilities.
The mayor did return a call for comment.