Nearing retirement, city manager turns down raise

Mayor says James Keene told council he would not accept salary increase

Palo Alto City Manager James Keene, who is retiring this month after 10 years of service, has informed the City Council that he will not be accepting a raise, Mayor Liz Kniss announced Wednesday afternoon.

Keene is one of four council-appointed officers — along with City Clerk Beth Minor, City Attorney Molly Stump and City Auditor Harriet Richardson — whose salaries the council discussed at a City Council closed-session meeting on Tuesday afternoon. The council also held a performance evaluation for Keene.

According to Kniss' announcement, during the conversation with Keene and before the Tuesday deliberation, Keene "let the council know that he would voluntarily refuse to accept any salary increase were it to be offered."

Kniss said the council has heard from several community members who speculated about Keene's potential salary increase, an adjustment that would bump up his pension. Last year, Keene earned a salary of $306,009, according to city data. With benefits factored in, his total compensation was $327,692.

Kniss wrote in her announcement that Keene felt that "speculation about a salary raise at this point in time would distract from concluding his tenure with the city."

"He is more focused on highlighting the contributions of colleagues, Council and the community as he finishes his time in Palo Alto," the announcement stated. "The Council is appreciative of Jim's leadership and dedication to our community, and we look forward to the opportunity to thank him publicly over the next few weeks as his career with Palo Alto comes to a close and he begins the next chapter."

The council has two more regular meetings scheduled this year before it adjourns for its winter recess beginning on Dec. 18.


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8 people like this
Posted by hilary
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 6, 2018 at 10:44 am

Nice touch!

54 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 6, 2018 at 10:49 am

Online Name is a registered user.

So how many letters objecting to possible raise for Mr. Keene did the city get? And why not have a comprehensive review of how the city's changed in the last 10 years?

Many of us didn't care about city politics 10 years ago because most things seemed to work. Then we began noticing the city's failure to deal with seemingly simple problems and, more infuriatingly, ignoring our complaints. In my case, it was wasting years sitting at the stupid Paly traffic light when school was OUT -- nights, weekends, summers, holidays.

You know th4e old joke: How many X's does it take to change a light bulb -- or in this case -- to flip s switch to turn off the traffic light.

And here we are 10 years later with Mayor Kniss telling us we don't have traffic problems!

33 people like this
Posted by DT Curious
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 6, 2018 at 10:51 am

If he is retiring this month why is a raise even a possibility? Genuinely curious. thanks

2 people like this
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 6, 2018 at 11:10 am

Good for him!

29 people like this
Posted by Collusion?
a resident of Mayfield
on Dec 6, 2018 at 11:24 am

Maybe he just didn't want to hear people speaking up about his support of development excesses.
Colluding with developers isn't good governance.

17 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2018 at 11:29 am

Suspicious as anything of this! Can't believe a word of it. What an underhand movement by both parties.

"What A Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practice To Deceive"

46 people like this
Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 6, 2018 at 11:34 am

What Will They Do Next is a registered user.

I'm dreaming, but it would be great if possible, to knock his salary down by a couple hundred thousand before he retires and lower his lifetime pension liability. He wasn't a very good city manager and loved to spend on wasteful projects. Glad he's going but concerned the replacement won't be any better.

6 people like this
Posted by Well said, Jim.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 6, 2018 at 11:55 am

Well said, Jim. is a registered user.

Thanks for taking the high road, Jim. Much appreciated.

44 people like this
Posted by Yeah Right
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 6, 2018 at 11:56 am

In other words, the city counsel, facing backlash from outraged voters, realized they needed to make the raise go away. Then they spoke with Keene and worked out a way to make it look like a noble gesture.

30 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 6, 2018 at 12:45 pm

Before he leaves, why doesn't he tear out the Ross Road "improvements"

40 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 6, 2018 at 2:10 pm

I posted this in another thread, but since this thread is focused on the Council's wanting to "spike" the City Manager's salary--I'll post it again. It is the letter I sent to the Council on the topic:

Giving City Manager Keene a retroactive pay raise on top of his already lavish salary? Really?

This is an outrage. With a salary of over $300,000, depending on how many actual years of CalPERS agency employment Keene has actually been employed, and depending on the number of years he lives after retirement, he could easily draw over $10M in pension payouts. Isn’t that enough?

Looking at a potential payout for someone exiting the City's employment with a salary of over $300K, and not a police or fire department employee, such a person could start with a pension payout of about $240,000 the first year, with that person seeing over $460,000 a year by year 30 of his retirement. This comes to an average of about $330K per year. (Remember, someone on Social Security will receive between $14,000 and $30,000 per year.)

If the City Council can “spike” this man’s salary, then they can spike every employee’s salary.

Clearly, those Council Members supporting this “spiking” have no sense of fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers and voters. Would it be a fair bet that not one of those Council Members prepared to vote for this “spike” have no idea how this additional payout will encumber the City via it’s already large UAL?
Anyone Council Member who votes for this should be recalled.

I do have to give Mr. Keene a compliment for not accepting this inappropriate pay raise.

11 people like this
Posted by Watching From Afar
a resident of Los Altos
on Dec 6, 2018 at 2:19 pm

I would have accepted the raise and then bowed in gratitude...playfully acknowledging all of the local malcontents who are simply envious of his good fortune.

No one in their right mind walks away from some extra cash...just ask any Palo Altan. This heightened sense of moral outrage is very amusing to some extent.

35 people like this
Posted by DUH
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2018 at 2:23 pm

I am sure Keene will sleep mach better knowing he is gracious about turning down a raise that was never going to happen.

The council will sleep much better knowing they don't have to get hundred and hundreds of letters asking what the #$#%$^ are you dong.

Palo Altoans will sleep better knowing he is leaving town.

I am sure Keene would prefer we didn't put it to a vote about remvoing some of his salary and benefits - If we were alble to hold such a vote, he might not sleep as well.

27 people like this
Posted by Barron Parker Too
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 6, 2018 at 2:51 pm

Barron Parker Too is a registered user.


Well said!!

Of course, some of us might still lose sleep if we think about who will pay the approximately $280,000/year for Mr. Keene's pension. A total expected payout of about $8 Million in current dollars. Plus lifetime medical, of course. Someone has to pay.

And that's just for one retiree -- admittedly a special one who kicked fiducial responsibility "down the road" and ramped up our unfunded SEIU pension liability into the 10 figure range. What a legacy!

10 people like this
Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 6, 2018 at 3:35 pm

@ Wayne Martin.....My guess is that city council informed Keane that he would not be getting the raise and that he "graciously" informed them that he would not accept it, making himself look the benevolent one.

As a side note, I am happy to see you contributing your thoughts on a regular basis again. Your postings and letters to editors have always been well researched and presented. City Council could use someone like you as a member.

Like this comment
Posted by PALY LIGHT
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 6, 2018 at 9:58 pm

The Paly light is controlled by the state and not the city. apparently, it takes months and months to get them to change/improve lights, so they probably don't want to change it in the summer only to get back in the fall. So blame that one on the state not the city.

4 people like this
Posted by Inefficient
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 7, 2018 at 6:00 am

City council wasting time to discuss salary increase for soon to be retiree who is earning 300K? Which private company will do that? And which private company pays 300k? This is a waste of citizens tax dollars.

3 people like this
Posted by context matters
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2018 at 8:03 am

The votes for a salary increase ahead of the Nov Council elections and the hotel tax measure were not there just from a political calculation and the dynamics for a salary increase after the election are not there either. Maybe City Hall
is entering into a period in which context matters
in all the decisions that are made.It would be a nice change. Let's hope so.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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