Riverbank council to try to get along

RIVERBANK -- City council members decided Monday night that they don't need to pay a consultant to show them how to get along. Instead, they will try to do it themselves.

But judging by Monday's meeting, the learning curve may be steep.

Councilman Jesse James White and City Manager Rich Holmer had a brief, tense exchange that ended when Mayor Virginia Madueño gaveled them down.

White was trying to get the council to revisit a 2005-06 consultant's compensation and job classification study that resulted in some city workers getting raises, including Holmer.

White accused Holmer of being overpaid. Holmer earns about $156,000 a year, but White said the city manager's total annual compensation is more than $200,000 when benefits are included.

"There are plenty of qualified people who will work for $100,000," said White, a 21-year-old high school graduate.

"I think I'm highly qualified," responded Holmer, a 63-year-old college graduate with a degree in business administration and 35 years' experience in government.

White's larger point was his belief that the city's executive management team is overpaid -- especially because they received raises of 20 percent to 40 percent based on the study -- and reducing their pay would free up money for repairs at the waste- water treatment plant.

The city has tried for nearly two years to raise monthly sewer bills by about $6 over three years. The most recent attempts have been blocked by White and Dave White, his grandfather and fellow council member. Both Whites question how the city is spending its money.

Holmer said the city had not done a compensation and job classification study for 10 to 12 years until the 2005-06 study. He said the study compared Riverbank with similar cities, and the employees who received raises had their pay increased to the midpoint among the cities' pay scales.

The motion to revisit the compensation study failed with the Whites voting for it and Madueño, Vice Mayor Sandra Benitez and Councilman Danny Fielder voting against it.

Recent council meetings have been marked by bad behavior and hurt feelings. Madueño wanted council members to consider hiring a facilitator to help them get along better. But she dropped that idea when she realized it probably would not achieve the results she sought.

Dave White said the reason behind Madueño's request is "there was a little rumble the other night because profanity was used up here. Not by me, but by someone else."

At the April 26 meeting, Dave White accused Holmer of repeatedly whispering to him that he was a "f-ing liar" as the two sat side by side on the dais.

Holmer's response was, "Which you are."

The reputed whispering came after the Whites blocked an attempt to increase Holmer's vacation from four to five weeks effective in September, when he will have worked for the city 15 years. Holmer said city workers receive five weeks after 15 years.

The council decided Monday night to hold a workshop in June to review its code of conduct for meetings.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at or 578-2316.