The Turlock City Council is set to meet Tuesday, Oct. 14 to discuss and vote on renewing employment contracts for City Manager Roy Wasden and City Attorney Phaedra Norton as put forward on the agenda by Mayor John Lazar.
Staff’s recommendation, according to the staff report, is approving employment contracts between the City and Norton for the period between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2019, and a contract between the City and Wasden for the period between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2017.
The goal, according to the City, is to “create an ‘efficient’ yet effective City government organization.”
Wasden’s pay, per the contract, would be a “step 2 salary” which, monthly is $17,702, for an annual total of $212,424. At the end of each fiscal year, Wasden’s performance would be evaluated and he would be given a step increase if his work during the year is found “satisfactory.” Step 3 and 4 of the City Manager’s salary are $18,586 and $19,516, respectively.
Norton’s pay, per the contract is a “step 3 salary” which, monthly is $14,008, for an annual total of $168,096. Upon yearly evaluations, both have the potential to receive raises. Norton would also receive step increases based on satisfactory evaluations, up to two step increases.
Both also receive cost of living expense and a vehicle allowance, amongst other benefits. Wasden and Norton’s proposed pays are the highest among all City employees.
Irrespective of who wins the Mayoral and Council seats this November, the contracts for both the City Attorney and Manager would stand through their specified time frames should they be approved. A majority vote by City Council, though, may be taken for any reason at any time, to terminate these contracts, but the City would be obligated to pay the individuals 12 months of severance pay in addition to sick leave, paid vacations and holidays, as well as benefits.
With the election less than a month away, some candidates weighed in on the proposed contract renewal and believe that Council should hold off on the decision. Following the November election, Turlock will see a new Mayor and the possibly two new councilmembers.
"I commend Turlock's current managers for their hard work and dedication, but this is not an issue about their performance,” said Mayoral candidate Gary Soiseth. “As a candidate for mayor, I simply don't think it would be prudent for the current leadership at City Hall to needlessly bind the future council with long-term management contracts. Regardless of who is Turlock's next mayor, it is only fair that this mayor is given the opportunity to help decide who will best execute his vision for our city. It's simply the right thing to do."
Council candidates agreed that the Council should hold off until after the election is held.
“It was already a hot topic about the current council possibly renewing the contracts of our City Attorney and City Manager before the potential new council members and mayor were sworn in,” said Council candidate Sergio Alvarado. “With the new serious ethical issues coming to light, and considering both the City Attorney and City Manager can be held liable for this huge mistake, I would consider it very dishonorable for the current council to proceed with the vote to continue their services to the City of Turlock. I would think the honorable thing to do would be to extend their services on a month-to-month basis until after the new council is sworn in, then let the new council decide the action they want to take.”
Alvarado’s concerns come from an insert supporting Measure B — the half-cent sales tax increase that is intended to benefit Turlock roads — that was approved by Wasden before they were sent out.
Council candidate Matthew Jacob shared a similar sentiment.
“There is a fundamental issue of accountability that seems to be overlooked,” said Jacob. “With just weeks before November 4th such decisions should be tabled to our new Mayor and Council.”
The role of the City Manager is to bring experience, assist and serve the Council and community. Of particular importance, the City Manager has the responsibility of preparing a budget for the Council’s consideration. Additionally, the manager recruits, hires, and oversees City government staff. Currently, Wasden is responsible for 352 full-time City employees.
It is the duty of the City Manager to serve as the Council's chief adviser and ensure that policies are carried out and to provide complete and objective information, pros and cons of alternatives, and long-term effects of actions the City may take.
The City Attorney has the responsibility of advising City Council and the certain City departments regarding its constitutional and statutory structure, and to ensure that procedures set forth are followed. Any litigation brought forward questioning the lawfulness of actions taken by the City is handled or supervised by the City Attorney.
The City Attorney is responsible for prosecuting violations of the Turlock Municipal Code which includes ordinances relating to animal control, nuisance abatement, and some business activity licenses.
As a member of the Executive Team, the City Attorney works with the City Manager and City department directors, all of whom are expected to implement City policy as governed by Council.
Turlock City Council will meet Tuesday at 6:00 p.m at City Hall, 156 South Broadway, Turlock, in the Yosemite Room.