With only hours left in his term and those of three Baker City Council members, Baker Mayor Harold Rideau on Thursday vetoed an ordinance that would have set incoming Baker Police Chief Carl Dunn’s salary at $85,000 plus benefits.

Outgoing police chief Mike Knaps, who served 10 years as chief during his 35 years in the Baker police department, was earning $83,000 a year plus benefits.

The police chief position is included on the pay scale applied to all employees of the Baker Police Department. By the pay scale, Dunn’s starting salary would be $62,000 a year plus benefits.

Councilman Charles Vincent, who drafted the ordinance, attempted to call an emergency council meeting Thursday night to overturn the veto, but called it off after city attorney Ken Fabre informed him such a meeting would not be legal.

“We were upset because we got (the letter regarding the veto) 30 minutes before the city offices closed,” Vincent said in a phone interview.

The letter is dated 4 p.m. Thursday.

Reached by phone, Fabre said the circumstances didn’t warrant an emergency meeting and holding a council meeting without giving the public 24 hours notice would violate the state’s Open Meetings law.

“It’s not a life-or-death situation or a natural disaster,” Fabre said. “Trying to hold an emergency meeting on a veto is totally illegal.”

The soonest the council would be able to meet would be Saturday morning, but that meeting would consist of incoming council members Doris Alexander, Brenda Jackson and Glenda Bryant, who will be sworn in Friday at 10 a.m. at City Hall along with returning council members Pete Heine and Vincent.

Joyce Burges, Robert Young and John Givens’ terms end at midnight Thursday.

At its meeting Tuesday, the council voted 4-1 in favor of the police chief pay ordinance. Vincent, Burges, Young and Givens voted for it; Heine cast the lone dissenting vote.

In his letter explaining the veto, Rideau states the ordinance would negatively impact the city’s budget.

“I also believe it to be unlawful,” he wrote.

Asked for further comment, Rideau said by phone he was still waiting on the state Attorney General’s opinion about whether the police chief’s salary can be changed. The city requested an opinion on the matter in May.

According to state law, the salary of an elected official can only be altered 6 months or more before the election.

Dunn was elected in April, defeating long-time Baker police officer Darryl Rainwater. Knaps did not seek re-election.

On the issue of whether the ordinance itself would violate state law, Fabre had advised the council against passing it before hearing from the state attorney general.

“If they pass this, they give potential standing to members of the police department or other plaintiffs to sue the city,” he said.

At the June 14 meeting when the police chief pay ordinance was introduced, Assistant Police Chief Randall Dunaway and Police Captain Glenn Daniel threatened to sue the city if it passed.

It might be legal for the council to vote to rescind the current police department pay plan and put in place a new one reflecting higher pay for the police chief, but simply ignoring the current pay plan is legally questionable, Fabre said.

Vincent said Thursday he hopes the next council will either overturn the veto or change the pay plan.

“I believe (Dunn’s) experience is commensurate to the outgoing chief’s and I think once the incoming council members see the wisdom and fairness of (raising the chief’s pay), they will be for it,” Vincent said.

Dunn could not be reached for comment Thursday night.