By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
How Manteca’s city manager got a $50,000 pay bump in just 2 years
grow trees

Some people who are helping foot for the bill for salary of Manteca’s city manager — taxpayers that aren’t exactly flush with money — are asking how the City Council can justify paying someone $240,000 a year as an interim city manager given her sum total of experience managing a city was the four months she served as acting city manager.

It’s a fair question.

But the real question is why did the council give the previous city manager they decided wasn’t doing what they wanted him to do essentially a 25 percent pay raise.

Tim Ogden started out at $190,000 but by the time the current council decided to part ways 2½ years later he was making $240,000 a year. That’s a $50,000 raise. To put in in perspective the median annual household income in Manteca of those pesky taxpayers is $71,213.

And to further clarify the grasp the council has on the value of work, Ogden’s predecessor — Elena Reyes who  was hired for $190,800 a year ended up leaving employment as the city manager less than eight months after she was hired with a compensation totaling $387,280.

Keep that in mind the next time they tell you they don’t have money to repair streets.

So how did Ogden get to the point he was making $50,000 more a year than the rate he was hired at in just two years after being hired?

Again it goes back to the council and how they value work and your tax dollars.

The council was concerned that other employees that Ogden ultimately supervised as city manager were earning more than he was.

In 2018, the year the council used as the benchmark to make such a judgment, Ogden made $202,994 in salary. Not one city employee made more that Ogden in straight salary and — if they were eligible to receive it — overtime. There were, however, four employees compensated more than Ogden whose overall compensation as city manager was $301,816 when benefits such as health insurance and retirement are tossed into the equation. The closest employee to Ogden in regular pay was then Public Works Director Mark Houghton at $188,900 or $14,000 less a year.

What pushed those other four employees beyond what Ogden was making was the cash out at retirement of accrued vacation and sick days plus other negotiated compensation and — in the case of firefighters — pay covered by the state while they were called on to help fight wildfires.

The highest compensated employee in 2018 was Manteca Police Captain Tony Souza at $360,254. Given he did not work an entire year as he retired, his regular pay was only $104,404 compared to his fellow captain Charlie Goeken who earned $154,762. Souza received overtime pay of $10,164 and other pay — his retirement cash out and such — of $177,496 to make his total pay $292,140. Toss in benefits at $33,761 and a pension dent of $34,254 you get $360,254.

If you look at it strictly based on “total pay” as opposed to total compensation, eight city employees made more than Ogden in 2018. All but two of those were in the fire department with the other two being in the police department.

Arguments may get contorted as to which is the fairest way to judge how a person is “paid” against others and the tasks they perform whether it is regular salary, total pay, total pay minus cash out at retirement or overall compensation that includes benefits and retirement. The one thing that can’t be argued is the total compensation represents what an employee costs taxpayers.

During his campaign for mayor, Cantu more than once said that he felt city employees weren’t paid enough and he’d do what he could to change that. Hopefully he was referring to maintenance crews and others and not management, mid-management and in more than a few cases rank and file public safety workers.

As Manteca was closing in on 380 municipal employees in 2018, the total compensation for five employees was in excess of $300,000 while another 62 were compensated between $200,000 and $300,000. That’s almost a fifth of the overall municipal workforce. Keep in mind all but five of those compensated in excess of $200,000 a year were either in the fire or police department. The other five were the city manager and four department heads.

The council, in its infinite wisdom, bucked tradition and tied the city manager’s base pay just over a year ago into a set percentage more than the highest negotiated pay among the salaries of various bargaining groups. Guess who is in charge of contract negotiations. It’s the city manager.

The first question someone should ask is where is it written the head of an organization always should be the highest paid? Unless you are a Wall Street based concern that wheels and deals in stock options and massive pay days complete with platinum parachutes for when you have to be axed for unacceptable behavior, it is far from the norm. A lot of middle and smaller businesses have instances where people contribute significantly to the bottom line will be compensated in various forms of pay at a higher total than the owner, CEO, or “the boss”.

Quite frankly elected leaders have a lot of explaining to do in regards to how they value work. It doesn’t mean whatever their perspective might be is wrong it’s just that when wages and benefits constitute 85 percent of the general fund budget and you keep talking about the need to raise taxes people need to have an idea what that really means.

The cop out answer is saying that is what “so and so” nearby city pays and we must match it to be competitive for employees. If that’s the yardstick they want to use then how do we stack up not just in the number of workers but the quality and quantity of services delivered to residents.

As for interim city manager Miranda Ludlow the council would have done theirselves a big favor and simply hired her for a year as city manager and not interim city manager. It sent a message that more than a few taxpayers translated as meaning she was either getting on the job training or would not be sticking around for a long time. Ludlow did not want a term for more than a year. That’s fine. But the council by continuing to refer to her as “interim” clouded the situation. If she was really interim they’d be launching a search right now for a permanent replacement. It was noted that someone acting as a department head or city manager can supposedly do so for a maximum of six months as well as having a limitation on how much more the can be paid based on what they are currently making as a city employee. That’s fine but with the added contract proviso she can go back to being the Human Resources Director after a year, it is clear she is being treated as if this is a test run for her which means the council  put that concern above what was the best for the city.

Given that clearly is not the case in the mind of the council majority — Dave Breitenbucher was the only council member to vote against the contract — the council needs to revisit the contract and purge the word “interim”. Leaving in the contract the option for Lutzow to return to her job as Human Resources Director after a year wouldn’t devalue her status as city manager.

But calling her interim when you are willing to pay what you would anyone else at a starting annual pay of $240,000 to work as a permanent city manager rightfully makes taxpayers question the council’s judgment.