http://almanacnews.com/print/story/print/2013/12/11/editorial-city-can-do-better-than-deal-struck-with-managers


Almanac

Viewpoint - December 11, 2013

Editorial: City can do better than deal struck with managers

Unless the City Council balks at its Dec. 10 meeting, it appears that Menlo Park will sign off on a deal with 34 middle managers for a 4.5 percent pay increase and a jump in health benefits of $60 to $250 a month. Total cost of the package would be $260,000, or an average of $7,647 for each employee over the life of the contract, set to expire in June 2015.

The managers annual pay ranges from $53,461 to $112,511, levels that the city says is necessary to keep up with rates paid by nearby cities. As a result, there appears to have been little push-back over wages and benefits given to the managers, who are represented by the American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees.

We believe there is room to improve this deal in the city's favor, with a goal of limiting the package cost to less than $200,000 over the contract period. Although Menlo Park is seeing some revenue increases from a rebound in the local economy, these managers already receive generous salaries and benefits. And any worries about people leaving for higher paying jobs elsewhere should be discounted, as there are plenty of qualified applicants more than willing to work for $100,000 or more a year.

Another area that needs more attention is the proposed changes in the grievance and disciplinary appeal process, similar to those agreed to earlier this year for public safety employees. Our concern is that in binding arbitration of disciplinary appeals, an arbitrator will order reinstatement of a fired employee about 50 percent of the time, according to evidence published by the Almanac last year. This happened here when a veteran Menlo Park police officer was let go after being caught naked with a prostitute while on duty, but was reinstated with back pay by an out-of- town arbitrator. This policy takes control away from city managers, who are much more qualified to decide on an employee's discipline, than an arbitrator who likely has no knowledge of city affairs.

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