CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Just months after increasing property taxes, the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners gave the county's top executive a more than $30,000 bump in pay this week, including a $16,319 one-time cash bonus.
County manager Dena Diorio's total compensation is now $400,618, which is $150,000 more than her counterpart in similarly-sized Wake County, according to public records. Not only did elected leaders give her a 4.5 percent merit increase, taking her base salary to $326,373, they also approved her five percent one-time performance bonus Wednesday night after little public discussion.
County Commissioner Pat Cotham was the only commissioner to vote against the proposal.
"It was too much," she said Friday.
Cotham, who chaired the bi-partisan Performance Review Committee, said committee members previously decided against discussing Diorio's request for the one-time cash bonus. She said the idea came up again behind closed doors Wednesday night before the full board took a public vote.
"I just struggled with it, because we had never planned on it, we had never discussed it, we had never agreed on anything," Cotham said. "It was kind of like pulling it out of the hat, like here's $16,000. It just didn't feel good."
County commissioners cited Diorio's "exemplary" performance over the last year, including her ability to achieve new key initiatives, recognize key challenges and come up with the timely solutions as justification for the increase.
The county commission approved a tax increase this summer of 3/4 of a cent with some of that money earmarked for employee compensation, including merit increases.
"I am pleased that the raise was consistent with other county employees' increases," Diorio said Friday in a statement released to NBC Charlotte. "The other compensation is deferred. I am pleased that the board saw fit to give me the five percent bonus, as well."
Diorio's base pay increase is 1.5 percent higher than the average county employee's merit increase, according to a county spokesperson.
Diorio also gets a combined $57,000 in deferred compensation, an expense allowance and the same 401k match all other employees get.