Well, it looks like Palo Alto City Manager Frank Benest will not be receiving a bonus this year – unless the City Council reverses its very own recommendations at its Aug. 7 meeting.
I am not at all surprised.
In the packet this weekend, the council recommends on paper that the four council-appointed officers – Benest, City Counsel Frank Baum, City Auditor Sharon Erickson and City Clerk Donna Rogers — receive no salary increase other than the same percentage the other managers in the city get, which is akin to a cost-of-living increase, about 3 percent, as I recall.
But the surprise here is the bonuses – the council will give a $6,000 bonus to Erickson, $4,000 to Baum, $3,000 to Rogers, and absolutely nothing, as in zero, to Frank.
The council had problems with Frank this past year. Some members complained he was not on top of things as he should be, others pointed to the Utilities Department scandal.
But the meeting last Monday showed that there were other difficulties.
At his initiative, Benest presented to the council a list of ways to cut $1.3 million in costs and generate $5 million in revenues ($3 million for infrastructure and $2 million for retiree benefits). But the council was less than thrilled at his report.
Kleinberg complained his ideas were not creative enough, that the $2 million was insufficient, and that staff, meaning Benest, should be more innovative in generating ideas for increased economic development before resorting to more new taxes for residents.
Councilmember Bern Beecham agreed the list was insufficient. “Either we come up with additional ways of finding money, or we'll be cutting services in three or four years,” he said, adding that he heard of a lot of these ideas months back. He had hoped for some fresh new ideas.
Benest was hazy, at best, on some of his proposals. He said he could cut $500,000 in staff services, but when asked what they would be, he said they hadn’t been specified yet.
And he suggested the city could generate $450,000 a year by charging residents for non-emergency sidewalk repairs. Yet when that idea was presented earlier to the council’s Finance Subcommittee, it was met with a lot of resistance, with Councilmember Dena Mossar saying she did not think the community would go for this.
So the council didn’t go for many of Benest’s ideas, either.
And the city manager, who has been here now for seven years, is going without a bonus this year.