Glenwood City Council extends city manager’s contract two years
Glenwood Springs City Council has extended the city manager’s contract for two years and restored some back pay lost due to COVID cutbacks.
Debra Figueroa has been given the OK to serve as city manager through Dec. 31, 2023, on a 5-1 council vote on Sept. 17, with Councilor Tony Hershey opposed.
There is less locked in stone with this extension than might be assumed.
“Appointed officials serve at the pleasure of the elected body — City Council in this case — so at any point the council could vote to terminate the manager,” city attorney Karl Hanlon said in a follow-up email.
However, termination before the end of the contract would trigger a severance amount equal to six months of her annual salary, Hanlon said.
The contract also does not lock her salary at the current rate of $170,000 per year. She would still be able to negotiate, Mayor Jonathan Godes said.
In April, at the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdowns, the city took several measures to deal with declining revenues. Some part-time employees were laid off April 17, all full-time employees took one day off a week or a 10% pay cut starting in May, City Council took a 20% pay cut, and Figueroa took a $20,000 pay cut, equal to an almost 12% cut.
The pay cuts were intended to stay in effect through the end of the year unless the city’s financial situation improved.
By comparison on the salary front, Scott Hahn, city manager of Rifle, with a population about the same as Glenwood at just under 10,000, said he earns about $144,000. Gary Suiter, the city manager of Steamboat Springs, at a population of more than 13,000, said his salary had been about $196,000 before COVID, but with a pay cut is now about $176,000.
As revenues rebounded, city employees were returned to full pay on Aug. 16; except for Figueroa.
Godes moved to restore Figueroa’s pay back to Aug. 16.
“It was surprising to me a couple of weeks ago to find out that Debra restored all of the employees’ salaries but she hadn’t restored her own salary,” he said. “[We should] make Debra’s restoration of pay retroactive to the time when she restored all the other employees’ pay.”
Figueroa clarified in a follow-up email that the retroactive pay would equal $1,538.46.
The city manager contract was an agenda item, and Godes opened the discussion saying that he felt Figueroa is underpaid.
“You don’t let a star player or coach get into the last year of their contract. You throw money and years at them and pray they stay as long as you can hold onto them. We didn’t have money to throw at Debra this year, but we did have a minor amount of certainty that we could give her, and that will hopefully allow us to keep her around for a bit longer,” Godes said in a followup email.
He said that with new councilors possibly on board come April 2021, in addition to Rick Voorhees’ eventual replacement, council would be wise to renew her contract now. Voorhees announced his intentions to resign from the Ward 2 seat, effective Oct. 15, at the same City Council meeting where Figueroa’s contract was discussed.
“Organizations also need consistency and continuity that sometimes only senior staff can provide when you have the potential that either three or four new councilors will be elected every 24 months,” Godes said in the email. “She has assembled and retained an amazing staff and has proven herself as a visionary leader that has guided us through the Grand Ave Bridge replacement, the RMI mine fight and COVID impacts, and provided a steady and supportive hand through the Grizzly Creek Fire and the rebuild.”
Councilor Charlie Willman agreed.
“I fully support both restoring salary … and extending the contract,” he said, making a motion to both restore her salary and extend her contract. Councilor Voorhees seconded.
“We have a city manager who has worked diligently, honestly and played hard. We wouldn’t be where we are today if Debra and her staff hadn’t united and taken us forward. … We’re going to be lucky if we can keep Debra until 2023, and we ought to exercise the option to be able to do that now,” Voorhees said.
Hershey agreed that Figueroa should have her salary restored but was not in favor of extending her contract due to his belief that she participated in council’s efforts to get Hershey to resign.
“I can’t support a contract extension, but I think she should be paid like she was before because she works very hard and she deserves it,” he said.
Godes later upped the ante on the contract extension, suggesting extending it for two years.
After some further discussion, council voted to both extend Figueroa’s contract through 2023 and restore her full pay retroactively to Aug. 16.
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