On Tuesday, the Oakley City Council would be wise to renegotiate the proposed City Manager amendment to his contract that provides a raise and many other unnecessary benefits.
According to the deal struck by Mayor Claire Alaura and Councilmember Randy Pope in negotiations, the following terms are included in the agreement:
- Retroactive to July 1, 2018, an increase in salary of 4% which results in a salary of $19,995.38 per month.
- Annual adjustment in accordance with the Bay Area consumer price index (CPI) for urban users.
- A prohibition on “without cause” termination of employment within 90 days of an election.
- An increase of three months’ severance (from 6-months to 9-months) if the city manager is terminated “without cause” within 91 and 180 days from the date of an election (after the 180th day, the severance would revert to the 6-months provided currently).
So, by July 1, Montgomery will be taking home $249,043 a year. If that is the council’s prerogative, fine. But I doubt many residents will find that acceptable. Furthermore, providing him a 4% raise which is higher than the 3.5 CPI Index is stunning.
The issue I have is not actually with his salary. Yes, it is bloated by a mile, but that is what happens when you have the 9th amendment to any contract, remember, he has been with Oakley since 2005. If the council wanted to save money, they would hire a new City Manager at a much lower rate.
The issue is all the election protection and his without cause severance package. This is a cockamamie idea that should be rejected by the City Council. For starters, the City Manager serves at the pleasure of the council. That could mean this current council, or a future council.
But locking future councils into a poor policy is both reckless and self-serving.
For example, in 2020, if residents vote out three councilmembers because they do not like the direction of the City of Oakley, this policy would prevent the firing of Montgomery for a period of 90-days—it would be too expensive. The reverse is true, if Montgomery does not like the new council, it gives him 90-days to find new employment and he could milk it.
Let’s go a step further, this whole “without cause” nonsense is subjective. This is why the City manager serves at the will of the council. Cause or no cause, a council should never lose the ability to fire a city manager at any time and for whatever reason.
What this tells me is the council is not looking out for the City of Oakley, it is working to protect a city manager—which is the opposite of what type of policy they should be working on. A council should work to make the city operations better for the people, not protect an employee.
I could get into 2020 election theory; it tells me certain members of the council are either not running for re-election, potential districting could be coming which would change the entire dynamic of the council, or because of the direction of Oakley has headed, there is a real chance of three incumbents voted out in 2020.
But I will save the election theory for another time.
Ultimately, what is missing from this staff report in the contract for Montgomery is the why. Why have this clause? After all, maybe Mayor Aluara and councilman Pope had good reason. Who knows? It is not stated. Did other perks get traded in and out for election protection? Again, it could be a variety of unknown reasons.
Perhaps one logical reason came from the minutes of the April 16 Special City Council meeting where Councilwoman Sue Higgins stated she would like a policy in place where city staff cannot be treated in extremely negative ways by the public—firing a city manager without cause might fall under that.
The “why” should be answered on Tuesday and this item (3.7) should be pulled from the Consent Calendar and discussed. I would also hope the city council asks the question of why was a salary survey not included in the staff report—without it, it’s an incomplete staff report per usual on Oakley agendas.
It would also be interesting to see if any other cities offer any type of “election protection” to their city manager. In a short Google Search, I could not find any. That question should also be asked and answered Tuesday.
Did this council not learn anything from the past when a previous council tried to provide a mortgage deal to Montgomery? This contract amendment is just as foolish and if not more difficult to defend because it doesn’t pass the smell test.
Many residents have expressed displeasure with this contract extension online, but to really get it changed they are going to need to submit a public comment online under Item 3.7 or simply show up to the meeting and voice their concerns.
In the end, if this should pass Tuesday as proposed, it will not be the city manager needing election protection, it will be any city council member who votes in favor of this contract amendment for Mr. Montgomery.
If you go:
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Oakley City Council Chambers
3231 Main Street, Oakley, CA
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