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City Manager’s 2014 compensation becomes issue

Friday, August 30, 2013 by Michael Kanin

Austin City Council Member Bill Spelman took the unusual step of abstaining Thursday on a vote over FY2014 compensation and benefits for City Manager Marc Ott. The move came as tension appears to mount between at least two Council offices and the City Manager.


In remarks delivered just before his colleagues voted to approve a raise and other salary adjustments for Ott, Spelman cited a call from Council Member Mike Martinez for a more “robust” review process for the handful of city employees that report to Council. Spelman added that he would like to see a fuller discussion about performance as soon as a month from now.


Spelman did not abstain from a vote on any of the other Council direct reports, City Clerk Jannette Goodall, Municipal Court Clerk Rebecca Stark, or Auditor Ken Mory. Mory was the only one of the four – including  Ott – to not receive a raise. Council members did not offer comment about that issue.


The Austin American-Statesman reported in June that the city was investigating Mory over irregularities in travel expenses to speaking engagements. In Fact Daily has been told that it is a minor issue. Mory declined further comment Thursday.


Martinez was off the dais when the votes on compensation happened.


He later told In Fact Daily that “I proposed postponing the items related to pay raises for all four Council appointed positions during Executive Session to allow us more time to talk about a process that I feel has been lacking in substance, but my colleagues felt that was inappropriate because we had recently conducted reviews for each of these positions.  I have to respectfully disagree with that position,” he wrote in an email. “Having an itemized list of performance measures, just as we do for other employees and City departments, would provide Council a better method for evaluating some of our highest paid staff at the city.”


Martinez continued: “Following the status quo for our evaluation process because it’s what we’ve always done in the past is simply not good enough when you consider what’s at stake.  Our City operates with over a $3 billion budget, and we should be taking every possible step to ensure that we’re producing the highest quality services.  That’s part of fulfilling our promise to be the ‘Best Managed City,’” he wrote. “Overall, I support our City Manager, City Clerk, City Auditor, and Municipal Court Clerk and understand they have a lot on their plate.  It’s because these folks are responsible to fulfill so many needs of our citizens, our offices, and the rest of City Staff that we need to be more deliberate in these evaluations.  We also owe them a fair process for expressing our expectations clearly if we’re going to maintain such high standards for our City leadership.”


 Spelman did not offer further comment on the matter.


Last week, Spelman sparred with Assistant City Manager Anthony Snipes over details associated with the establishment of a leave bank for city employees. At the time, Spelman compared working with Snipes and his team to “pulling teeth.” (See In Fact Daily, August 23.)


Martinez has previously leveled concerns over the city’s FY2014 budget process, including those displayed some distrust of city staff over what appeared to be unfavorable turnover calculations (See In Fact Daily August 15). The union that represents non-sworn city employees – currently seeking a greater pay raise than the one currently outlined in the FY2014 budget – has also blasted management over what reps have characterized as substantial growth of management staff (See In Fact Daily, August 26).


According to the resolution passed by Council, Ott will receive a slight bump in base salary that will bring that figure to $256,755.20 for FY2014. He could also be eligible for a cost-of-living adjustment on par with whatever percentage raise non-sworn city staff eventually receives.


Ott retains a severance package that entitles him to one year’s salary, deferred compensation contribution, and taxes, among other items if he is terminated.


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