Should the new city manager's salary be adjusted now that he's decided not to live in the town-owned house that was to be part of his compensation? That's the question two Atherton City Council members will discuss with George Rodericks in private after the council delayed making a decision on the matter at last night's meeting.
At the Jan. 16 meeting, Mayor Elizabeth Lewis appointed herself and Vice Mayor Jerry Carlson to try to work out a plan that would allow Mr. Rodericks to continue living in his Marin County residence while possibly increasing his salary because residence in the Watkins House was originally intended to be part of his overall compensation.
Traditionally, city managers have resided in the house, located in Holbrook-Palmer Park, and the housing was part of their compensation package.
Mr. Rodericks was hired in October with an annual salary of $160,000 and a monthly transportation allowance of $2,500 until June, when the move to Atherton would occur -- or might occur, depending on whose interpretation of the agreement is accepted.
In a staff report for the agenda item, which appeared on the consent calendar and had to be pulled so the council could discuss it, Mr. Rodericks noted that during negotiations he indicated that he "may or may not be using the home in the short-term," and he therefore agreed to a "housing offset of $30,000 per year until such time as the decision was made to either use or not use the residence."
Since that time, he has concluded that there are "personal challenges to using the house" as his primary residence, and is now seeking a salary increase to reflect a housing benefit, the staff report said.
The value of the house is $60,000 per year, and that amount was "deducted from an overall compensable salary of $220,000," Mr. Rodericks said in his report.
But Councilman Bill Widmer and former council member Kathy McKeithen, who negotiated Mr. Rodericks' contract before it was ratified by the full council, challenge the city manager's version of the agreement.
During the public comment period, Ms. McKeithen called the staff report "a gross misrepresentation" of the negotiations, and "a fairy tale." From what was discussed during the talks, "it was pretty clear he was going to live (in the house)."
Councilman Widmer said he was "a little taken aback" by the request to revise the contract, and that the two negotiating council members were "pretty adamant" they wanted the city manager living in town. "I don't feel the taxpayers should be bearing the cost" for $30,000 or more per year as a result of Mr. Rodericks' decision to commute rather than live in town, he said.
But Mr. Carlson noted that there are "complexities beyond his control" that make it difficult if not impossible for Mr. Rodericks to relocate to Atherton, and recommended that an ad hoc committee be appointed to come up with a compromise.
Mayor Lewis said it was her understanding that Mr. Rodericks' hiring was not predicated on his living in the Watkins House. She said she and Mr. Carlson would meet with the city manager and bring a recommendation back to the council to discuss in a February closed session.