Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 28, 2014

Three top Palo Alto officials to get raises

City Council approves higher salaries for city manager, city attorney and city clerk

by Gennady Sheyner

Days after Palo Alto officials approved pay raises for the lowest-paid city workers, the City Council spread the rewards to three employees in the top tier — City Manager James Keene, City Attorney Molly Stump and City Clerk Donna Grider.

On Monday, the council approved raises for three of the four council-appointed officers, effective July 2013, the beginning of the current fiscal year. (The fourth position, city auditor, has had an interim head since August 2013.)

Of the three department heads getting a raise, Stump will see the largest increase. Her salary will jump from $214,635 to $234,936, a 9 percent increase. The pay bump would be effective July 1, 2013 (the first day of the current fiscal year), according to a report that the city's Human Resources Department released late last Friday afternoon.

Keene, who joined the city in 2008 and was the city's highest paid employee last year with a base salary of $247,187 and total compensation of $264,488 (including benefits), will see two salary bumps. One, which the staff report refers to as "merit pay," would raise his base salary to $254,603, effective July 1, 2013. The other pay bump would push it to $262,241, effective the first pay period after the council approves the contract. He would also receive one extra vacation week per year, raising his vacation hours from 200 to 240.

The Council Appointed Officers Committee, which in 2013 included Greg Scharff, Karen Holman, Marc Berman and Liz Kniss, issued the recommendation to raise salaries. They reasoned that the second pay bump would compensate Keene for 2012, when the council last reviewed his performance and offered him a pay raise. According to the report, Keene refused the raise then because other employees weren't getting salary increases.

Since then, the city's economy has rebounded and employees have started to reap the rewards after years of austerity. On March 17, the City Council approved a contract for the roughly 580 employees represented by the Service Employees International Union, Local 521. Each worker received 4.5 percent salary increases over two years (2 percent in the first and 2.5 percent in the second) and more than 300 saw further raises as part of the city's effort to align local salaries with the market median. In some cases, workers in highly specialized Utilities and Public Works positions received raises of more than 14 percent because of the city's difficulty in retaining and recruiting workers for these jobs.

Grider, who has been with the city since 1999, will see her base salary go up from $132,142 in 2013 to $134,785. Like the other two raises, this one would take effect July 1, 2013.

The salaries of all three council-appointed officers will also now be decoupled from those of the "management and professional" employee group. In the past, the three department heads would have seen their salaries increase when the council approved raises for the broader management group. Now, salaries will remain at the level approved Monday "unless and until the Council specifically votes to change it."

The three contract approvals were a late addition to the council's Monday night agenda. They were added Friday to the council's "consent calendar," which means they were to be approved with no discussion unless three council members chose to remove it from the calendar.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

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