Almanac

News - May 22, 2013

Atherton city manager gets pay boost — sort of

by Renee Batti

With one council member calling the change "outrageous," the Atherton City Council on May 15 approved a compensation increase, that by some calculations is a decrease, for City Manager George Rodericks.

The council voted 3-1, with Bill Widmer opposed and Jim Dobbie absent, to raise Mr. Rodericks' base pay $30,000 a year — from $160,000 annually to $190,000. But the new contract also takes away a monthly travel and housing allowance of $2,500, and a phone allowance of $100 per month, which means a cut of $31,200 annually.

The adjustment followed the city manager's contractually mandated six-month performance review, which Mayor Elizabeth Lewis said produced marks from satisfactory to "excellent and above average." Council members and management staff participated in the evaluation, she said.

Complicating the compensation question is housing: When Mr. Rodericks was hired last October, he and the council agreed that he would move to the town-owned house in Holbrook-Palmer Park. The $2,500 monthly travel and housing allowance was to expire in June, when Mr. Rodericks was due to move from his Marin County home and occupy the house in the park.

But several months after he began the job, Mr. Rodericks informed the council that "personal challenges" had developed that precluded his move to the house, and that he would continue living in Marin County. Noting that the house has traditionally been factored into a city manager's salary, he asked for a salary increase to adjust for the fact that he wouldn't have the housing benefit.

Because the house is valued at $5,000 a month — or $60,000 annually — Mr. Rodericks said he was willing to "split the difference," requesting a $30,000 increase.

Further complicating the issue is that Mr. Rodericks was among the unrepresented employees whose compensation packages will be cut beginning in July. Retirement contributions now paid for by the town will be made by employees — which in Mr. Rodericks' case means a hit of about $13,765 — and caps on health and dental care will be put in place. At the same time, the cuts will be offset in part by a 3.5 percent increase in base pay.

With all those elements factored in, Mr. Rodericks' total compensation — salary and benefits — will be about $191,900. His current total compensation is about $202,400, he said.

In opposing the contract adjustment, Councilman Widmer said that "giving someone a $30,000 raise six months into the job is ... outrageous." Mayor Lewis countered that the adjustments constituted a pay cut when all aspects were factored in.

The morning after the council action, Mr. Rodericks said: "Overall, it's a pay cut. But I love my job. ... And I enjoy working in the town of Atherton." He added that he believes "it's the obligation of employees to pay their share" of retirement and other benefit costs.

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