SOUTH SALT LAKE — Sparks flew at the conclusion of Wednesday’s city council meeting in South Salt Lake after a council member made comments about sexism.
“I’m not making any accusations, but sometimes, I wonder if it's a female mayor sometimes, because it was a boys club back then,” Sharla Bynum said to the other council members after they voted 4-3 to deny a pay raise to Mayor Cherie Wood.
Video of the meeting shows others condemning the accusation.
“That is inappropriate,” said one council member.
Another said, “I take offense to that.”
Bynum insists the comments weren’t a personal attack, but rather, a way to open up a dialogue about the gender pay gap.
“I’m sitting there looking at a list of local mayors — all of them male, except for Mayor Wood — that make significantly more than her, I just had to ask the question,” Bynum said.
Mayor Wood earns a salary of $81,493, according to the website transparent.utah.gov. That is considerably less than mayors in cities like Tooele, Sandy or Murray.
Those who voted against the salary increase say South Salt Lake’s smaller population compared to the others’ makes for an illegitimate comparison and any allegations of gender bias are unfounded.
“I think it’s just really desperate to label somebody and a bigot — albeit a racist or a sexist — or any label you want to put on it, when you lose an argument,” said Shane Siwik, a member of the city council.
Siwik and others who voted against the salary increase point to the city’s economic situation.
“I feel like it is not right for the elected officials to be asking for raises in a year when we are asking our residents to pay fees,” said council member Corey Thomas.
The South Salt Lake mayor hasn’t been granted a pay increase since 2011.
“I feel like it’s my full time job,” Mayor Cherie Wood said. “I think the request after seven years was fair.”
The issue likely won’t be put before the council again until next year.