Atherton city manager's pay talks go private
Should the new city manager's salary be adjusted now that he's decided not to live in the town-owned house that was to be part of his compensation? That's the question two Atherton City Council members will discuss with George Rodericks in private after the council delayed making a decision on the matter at its Jan. 16 meeting.
Mayor Elizabeth Lewis appointed herself and Vice Mayor Jerry Carlson to try to work out a plan that would allow Mr. Rodericks to continue living in his Marin County residence while possibly increasing his salary because residence in the Watkins House was originally intended to be part of his overall compensation.
Traditionally, city managers have resided in the house, located in Holbrook-Palmer Park, and the housing was part of their compensation package.
Mr. Rodericks was hired in October with an annual salary of $160,000 and a monthly transportation allowance of $2,500 until June, when the move to Atherton would occur — or might occur, depending on whose interpretation of the agreement one believes.
In a staff report for the agenda item, which appeared on the consent calendar and had to be pulled so the council could discuss it, Mr. Rodericks noted that during negotiations he indicated that he "may or may not be using the home in the short-term," and he therefore agreed to a "housing offset of $30,000 per year until such time as the decision was made to either use or not use the residence."
Since that time, he has concluded that there are "personal challenges to using the house" as his primary residence, and is now seeking a salary increase to adjust for the fact he will not benefit from living in the town's house, the staff report said.
Although Mr. Rodericks didn't specify how much he thought the town should boost his pay, he said in his report that the value of the house is $60,000 per year, and that amount was "deducted from an overall compensable salary of $220,000."
But Councilman Bill Widmer and former council member Kathy McKeithen, who negotiated Mr. Rodericks' contract before it was ratified by the full council, challenge the city manager's version of the agreement.
During the public comment period, Ms. McKeithen called the staff report "a gross misrepresentation" of the negotiations, and "a fairy tale." From what was discussed during the talks, "it was pretty clear he was going to live (in the house)."
Councilman Widmer said he was "a little taken aback" by the request to revise the contract, and that the two negotiating council members were "pretty adamant" they wanted the city manager living in town. "I don't feel the taxpayers should be bearing the cost" for $30,000 or more per year as a result of Mr. Rodericks' decision to commute rather than live in town, he said.
But Mr. Carlson noted that there are "complexities beyond his control" that make it difficult if not impossible for Mr. Rodericks to relocate to Atherton, and recommended that an ad hoc committee be appointed to come up with a compromise.
The issue has generated criticism by a number of residents, including Bob Ferrando, who wrote in an email to the council that Mr. Rodericks' "waffling about living in the home suggests he may not be fully committed to Atherton. I would ask that he reaffirm his commitment to the position, at the current offering, or begin a search for a replacement who will commit to serving the town."
Councilman Cary Wiest indicated a willingness to consider Mr. Rodericks' request, and noted that recruiting a new manager would be expensive. "And personally, I think George should have an opportunity to perform. (He) hasn't had an opportunity to do his job."
Resident Jon Buckheit suggested that if council members were considering increasing Mr. Rodericks' salary so early in his tenure, they might set aside the amount he requests and use it as a performance-based bonus.
Councilman Jim Dobbie didn't attend the meeting; it was he, according to Mr. Rodericks, who suggested to him that the contract might be revised in light of Mr. Rodericks' decision not to live in town.
Mayor Lewis said it was her understanding that Mr. Rodericks' hiring was not predicated on his living in the Watkins House. She said she and Mr. Carlson would meet with the city manager and bring a recommendation back to the council to discuss in a February closed session.