Over the past two-plus years, The Bee editorial staff has taken every opportunity to label the members of Turlock's City Council as "divisive" because the mayor and the most senior members of council have disagreed on a number of issues.
This same editorial staff now feels the mayor and senior members of council are "out of touch" for coming to a majority consensus on a contract for our new city manager, Roy Wasden. But their editorial ("Turlock council out of touch on pay," May 29) ignored a number of facts concerning Wasden's contract.
First and foremost, this council has consistently agreed to negotiate all contracts on a "total compensation" basis. While the reported base salary for Wasden was reported correctly as $202,296, he will give back 5 percent on day one, as all city employees have agreed to do, lowering his salary to $192,181.
All other benefits over which the council has authority have been either eliminated, as is the case with management leave, or reduced, like the car allowance. The previous city manager did have a lower base salary of $184,404 but had a higher total compensation of $192,696 based on the value of his benefits. Both individuals were equally entitled to participate in the Public Employee Retirement System and receive health benefits as public employees.
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Second, all "me-too" clauses have been stripped out of Wasden's contract, which means he will not benefit from contract gains by other labor units. This is crucial as the city manager guides negotiations on behalf of the council and thus the taxpaying public. The city manager's role as lead negotiator must be free of even a perception of a conflict of interest.
Third, there are no guaranteed pay raises in Wasden's contract. The former city manager got a guaranteed 5 percent pay increase each year upon a successful job performance review, in addition to any "me-too" increases because of gains afforded other bargaining units. Wasden's only method to increase his own compensation is through negotiation with future councils.
Fourth, because of the dire state of Turlock's budget, we, as the budget subcommittee, recommended a freeze of all merit and step pay increases for 30 months. As city manager, Wasden will be subject to the same restriction on pay increases. The new city manager will most likely be more than three years into a five-year contract before being able to receive a salary increase.
Lastly, Wasden has taken a job which will most likely demand 60 to 80 hours a week. Because of looming layoffs due to budget cuts, the new city manager will have less senior staff to assist him in running a city that has grown since the hiring of our previous city manager. Wasden's salary amortized over 60 hours a week equates to a very acceptable $72 per hour for a highly skilled professional to run our city.
These are the facts on which a majority of the City Council negotiated the new city manager's contract. Reporting anything short of the full facts could undermine the credibility of our new city manager before he even begins. That would be a shame as Wasden clearly rose to the top of our search and hiring process as a man of unquestioned integrity and leadership ability. We look forward to working with him in the very near future.
Lazar and Howze are Turlock's mayor and vice-mayor, respectively.