Faced with the threat of a lawsuit by Director Chris Holden, the city Board of Directors on Tuesday reversed a decades-old practice of withholding from the public the specific salaries earned by the city attorney, clerk and manager.
Instead of providing only salary ranges--maximum and minimum amounts paid to the top three city employees--the board approved Holden’s idea to have the mayor publicly announce any changes to their salaries.
But the hourlong haggling over the issue and the 4-2 vote displeased Holden. Directors William Paparian and John Crowley voted against the measure. Director William Thomson was absent.
“Some of the city directors of this city need to take a gut check and figure out what they’re doing here,” Holden said after the vote. “It’s just good government, and if they can’t vote for that, then what are they doing here?”
Under Holden’s revisions, both annual salaries and one-time-only bonuses will be announced. Information about the amounts will also be available on request.
But Crowley and Paparian were concerned that revealing information about salary increases could violate city employee privacy. Pay raises in Pasadena are based partially on merit. Varying percentages of raises can indicate whether a person was evaluated as “needs improvement,” “meritorious” or “superior.”
Paparian said anyone who did the math could calculate from the salary the evaluation earned by the employee. Such information could harm an employee’s career if no pay raise were received, he said.
“I want to make sure we’re not putting ourselves in a situation where our employees will challenge us in court or we will have subverted a system we have used for years,” Paparian said.
City Manager Philip Hawkey and Director Rick Cole also expressed concern that the change for the three board-appointed, city employees could lead to modifications for all city employees who are evaluated under the same system.
“I’m getting a queasy feeling, because I’m hiring people” and touting the city’s merit pay system, Hawkey told the board.
But Holden said the change applies only to the board-appointed employees. “The bottom line is full disclosure,” he added.
In the past, specific salaries were announced publicly when employees began work with the city. Subsequent changes in salaries were approved in closed session by the board, but only salary ranges were revealed.
Holden, along with the rest of the board, followed the practice for former City Manager Donald McIntyre. But the controversy over Hawkey’s hiring prompted Holden last month to propose changes.
Hawkey, who is white, was selected last April over two black finalists. The action angered members of the city’s minority community. The criticism continued when Hawkey was given generous benefits and a $377,500 city loan to help buy a $615,000 home.