Six Turlock Irrigation District (TID) employees appealed to the TID Board that Interim General Manager Casey Hashimoto’s decision to take back their recent raises be rescinded and that their raises be given back. The raises were given by the former TID General Manager Larry Weis as he was leaving for a new job in Austin, Texas. The Board approved in January that no such raises were to be given due to the economy.
The TID Board had expressed concerns to the interim general manager in regards to some MSPC (Managerial, Supervisory, Professional and Confidential) increases in salary. Hashimoto accumulated a list of all the MSPC employees that received salary increases in 2010 and listed 21 individuals. Hashimoto was asked to review each of the 21 individuals and make a recommendation.
“After my review of those twenty-one, I found that there were five that were not consistent with the Board’s policy of no merit increases in 2010 and then there was one increase that was inconsistent with the additional scope of work, with the experience of the individual, with the external market pay structure, and the internal pay structure,” stated Hashimoto.
Letters were sent out to the employees notifying them of the Interim GM’s findings and then the employees took their right to appeal to the TID Board at Tuesday’s October 5, 2010 Board Meeting.
TID Director Ron Macedo began comments by saying “I have a real concern with what’s going on here. I think the Board has acted a little bit hastily here and I think we made a mistake on how we handled this.”
Macedo believed the Board should stand behind the former Genera Manager’s decision right or wrong and admitted putting Interim General Manager Casey Hashimoto in an unfair situation.
“Again how we handled this is not fair, and to treat these people it’s not right,” said Macedo. “For right now, I’m going to vote to give all the people back their raises of where Larry (Weis) set them.”
TID Director Charles Fernandes agreed with Director Macedo and further stated, “Reading the applications from the individuals, it’s hard to not agree with their arguments. When you look at something and you look just at numbers and somebody gets a wage increase of… I don’t care if it’s 15 or 20 or 30 percent, it seems outrageous in this day and age. But at the same time, whether it be their immediate superior or an AGM, felt they deserved that wage, it was issued, and I think it’s not the good of the Board to overrule it.”
TID Director Michael Frantz felt exactly the opposite.
“I feel like this is a simple policy decision that we made in January and for us to not back up Casey when he is just following the policy decision of the Board would be a shame for us,” said Frantz.
Frantz expressed that he felt compassion for the employees who he referenced as “victims” to a former General Manager’s decision to violate Board policy but must ultimately back up the Board’s policy of no such raises and the Interim General Manager’s decision the Board asked for.
“I want to commend Casey for taking this tough decision. We the Board put him there. If we were not to follow through with this, to me it’s a disrespect to the rest of the employees in the District who are also working hard and could also make a great case to the Board as to why they too deserve a raise. The Board because of the financial condition of the economy has made a decision to not increase wages this year. Where salary increases were made, it’s directly opposed to the Board’s policy decision. For us to not back him up now would be a disgrace.”
“I feel that we got hoodwinked on this,” said TID Board President Rob Santos. “When we specifically said no merit pay and we specifically told Larry (Weis) not to fill some positions that were filled and at the twelfth hour those weren’t listened to.”
“I agree that this was handled wrong,” said TID Director Joe Alamo. “But when a Board makes a policy of no merit pay increases and there’s a merit pay increase like some of these are, it’s a black and white issue for me; we got to stand behind Board policy.”
“A lot of these are good cases and I’m sure every employee could make a case for a raise,” said Santos. “Again, this is not about the person, it’s just about the actions that were taken… at least for me.”
“I think probably most employees here at the District could make a case for a raise but these people were given a raise,” stated Fernandes. “We’re not talking about giving someone a raise, we’re talking about taking it away. That’s the bigger issue.”
Of the six employees appealing the decision to take away their raises, four submitted letters which we have provided at the end of this article as public documents and one employee chose to read his letter while commenting in public.
“I respectfully ask that you consider a motion to overturn Mr. Hashimoto’s letter and allow me to keep my current salary, not because I’m right or not because he’s wrong but because that is the right thing to do,” said TID Transportation and Facilities Manager Jason Hicks. “The District entered into an agreement and I feel the District should honor that agreement.”
All six employee appeals were denied as TID Directors Santos, Alamo, and Frantz formed the majority and voted to deny all appeals. Director Fernandes also voted to deny two of the appeals while Director Macedo disagreed with all his colleagues as he voted to grant all six employee appeals.
Throughout the issue, many concerns were brought up about how some TID MSPC employees get merit pay salary increases and how much those equate to.
Letters and comments by employees stated raises of $830/month, 15 percent increases, a suggested salary reduction from a current $5,221/month to $4,071/month, a raise from $3,791/month to $4,501/month, and an employee receiving 47 percent worth of raises in less than a year.
The two employees that publically spoke expressed concerns over unfair salaries within the District as some people have been demoted but have not received salary reductions, people that are managing departments with zero employees while others have many employees under their supervision and making less money, salary surveys showing inconsistency in awarded compensation, and managers’ favorites or buddies receive higher discretionary merit pay salary increases. Also pointed out is that union employees will continue getting 3.75 percent salary increases while the MSPC (Managerial, Supervisory, Professional and Confidential) employees get no raises.
TID President Rob Santos question why it seems that when employees accept a job classification title change they usually receive the high end of the salary range immediately and noting that it subjective to their boss in which they have a relationship. Santos also questioned that if raises are given when responsibilities are increased then why compensation isn’t decreased when responsibilities are decreased.