SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | The San Leandro City Council adopted a new five-year agreement starting next year increasing compensation and benefit packages for two top level executives in San Leandro, Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli and Assistant City Manager, Lianne Marshall, as incentive for them to stay with the city. San Leandro has had trouble maintaining top level management in recent years and the new agreement is an effort to provide incentives for longer terms.

The package is a relatively lucrative offer passed 5-2 with council members Jim Prola and Pauline Cutter dissenting. The package offers a pay increase that would cap off over $200,000 for both Spagnoli and Marshall by 2017. The compensation package begins January of next year with an immediate pay raise from $177,000 to $187,000. City Manager Chris Zapata sacrifices a total of $10,000 annually from his own salary to each of the city management executives during the first two years.

Zapata sponsored the agreement after elaborating his worries concerning recent staff reductions. Three city managers left their posts since 2009, along with three different police chiefs in the last five years. The proposal would aid in maintaining top level staff that, if otherwise left, would add stress to the City Manager when dealing with vacancies and new hires.

The proposition was met with astounding support from most of the council. Reed emphasized the necessity to maintain talent in the city to ensure stable functionality and consistency. The plan offers sick leave buy back compensation, although it would only be available if either Spagnoli or Marshall were fired without cause. Cutter voted against the agreement on this notion that although it is a relatively small amount of city funds lost if the buyback kicked in it would be a dangerous precedent to set.

Prola on the other hand, who is the most union-supported member of the council, voted against the agreement on ethical and financial grounds. The agreement comes at a time just before union negotiations are to be finalized and much discussion, some by Mayor Steven Cassidy during the State of the City address earlier this year, advocated for employee pension cuts by forcing the union members to pay more into their pensions. What that amount will be is unknown at this point. But Prola was steadfast to reject a proposal that offers top level management pay increases while working class city employees feel the brunt of the financial squeeze.

“In January 2013 they will get a raise of $10,000 that equivalent of 5.65 percent, it will bring the salary to $211,461, that is over $34,000 in a five year period and then you include vacation, health and sick leave benefits, they are getting a really good contract here,” said Prola, “I don’t think we should be giving our executives a boost in salaries while asking our employees to sacrifice. We are creating a couple of contracts over $200,000 here that will boost their pensions. I say the pensions of the employees are the not the ones that the masses complain about but it’s the huge pension increases for executives…I don’t think any employee should be treated differently than most of our employees.”

Cassidy, who showed less regard for potential employee pension cuts in the wake of top executive pay raises, spoke to a different axiom, “While the work of all individuals should be valued, I don’t believe in the philosophy that the compensation of all individuals should be treated the same, there are logical distinctions that can and should be made between those who are on the front line and those who are on the very top of management,” said Cassidy. The mayor threw his reasoning behind common business and economic rhetoric, “There is a pay increase in the beginning, but this is to reflect the realities of the market place.”

The agreement though is not a mandate. It does not require the police chief and the assistant city manager to stay for the full five years. In fact, both could quit at any point if dissatisfied or offered a more lucrative deal in another city. It is nothing but a mere financial incentive. Furthermore, if Zapata does not finish out the remainder of his contract, set to expire in 2014, then the pay increase would have to come out of the general fund. Even if Zapata finish in 2014 and does not renew his contract, the remaining three years of pay increase would likely be compensated by the general fund.