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McLaughlin making $144,690
Assistant spot being left vacant to save $240K a year
City Manager Karen McLaughlin listens to a speaker during a recent council meeting. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Manteca City Manager Karen McLaughlin can’t in good conscience justify hiring an assistant city manager given compensation and staffing cutbacks that have whittled the municipal work force by 88 workers over the past three years.

That’s why McLaughlin - who takes over from Steve Pinkerton as city manager today - said she has recommended to her five bosses on the Manteca City Council that the position be kept vacant for now.

That means Manteca will save $240,399 a year in salary and benefits. That, however, won’t be the permanent savings. One of McLaughlin’s other duties over the past two years when she was assistant city manager was to serve as the parks and recreation department director when Steve Houx retired. The city will fill the vacant parks and recreation director. That could eat into a large chunk of the savings depending upon whether the city opts to stay in house or look outside the ranks of city employees to fill the job.

The City Council on Tuesday will consider adopting an employment contract with McLaughlin that was hammered out by Mayor Willie Weatherford and Councilman Steve DeBrum. The council meets at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

McLaughlin said she asked to be placed midway between her salary as assistant city manager and what Pinkerton - her predecessor as city manager - was making.

That means she will be placed on the salary schedule at $186,600 but she will actually be making less. That’s because the city manager, like all other municipal employees, has taken additional cuts in compensation of 23.4 percent primarily by paying more of their benefits and retirement costs. That means McLaughlin’s annual pay before taxes will actually be $144,690 per year.

Pinkerton’s pay was cut to $165,000 a year after the 23.4 percent reduction was taken into account. His actual base pay was $200,515 although that is not what he received. McLaughlin’s base pay as assistant city manager was $172,600 but she was receiving less than $140,000 a year. Pinkerton will make $188,000 a year in his new job as Davis city manager.

The city has kept all employee base pay in place and then did the double digit compensation cutbacks. It may seem confusing but keeping the old pay was necessary to establish bench marks for negotiations with various bargaining units.

And as McLaughlin noted when furloughs and forfeited previously negotiated pay increases that had been agreed to be taken into account most municipal workers are making over 30 percent less than what their base pay is on adopted salary schedules. The bottom line is that her compensation as city manager when it comes to actual pay that she gets before taxes is $144,680 a year compared to what it would be without the 23.4 percent in compensation cuts which is $186,600.

And based on what some police officers and possibly firefighters can make with overtime, McLaughlin may not end up being the highest paid employee in the city when overtime is factored into the equation. As city manager she is not eligible for overtime.

Contract language indicates that she will always make at least 12 percent more than the base salary of the next closest municipal employee. In Pinkerton’s case it was 15 percent more.

The contract is for five years through Sept. 1, 2016. McLaughlin would be eligible for retirement at age 55 before the contract expires. She is currently 51.

Among the other provisions of the proposed contract:

• She earns 15.34 hours or just less than two days, of vacation each month.

• She is entitled to 120 hours of administrative leave for each year of the contract.

• The city will provide life insurance coverage of $500,000.

• She will receive $500 a month as an automobile allowance.

• Subject to council approval, her dues in professional organizations will be covered. The city will not cover expenses related to membership in service clubs.

• If McLaughlin is terminated by the council while still willing and able to perform the duties of city manager, the city agrees to pay McLaughlin a lump sum equivalent of 12 months’ salary as severance pay. That is in addition to paying for health insurance for six months.

• She can be terminated by a four-fifths vote of the council.

• Should she be terminated upon conviction of any illegal act or if it is a dismissal based on insubordination, malfeasance or willful neglect of duties there will be no severance pay.

• Her performance will be evaluated annually.

• She cannot be terminated during the 90-day period before or after a City Council election.