Victoria City Council approves raises, 2-year contracts for city manager, attorney

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Feb. 5, 2014 at 5:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 4, 2014 at 8:05 p.m.

The city of Victoria's two highest earners - the city manager and the city attorney - secured two-year contracts for their positions with the city.

The City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to approve the contracts, which included 3 percent raises. Councilwoman Josephine Soliz voted against the contracts.

In the past, the two have had annual evaluations conducted by the council and worked under a one-year contract.

Soliz wanted the discussion conducted in closed session, but City Attorney Thomas Gwosdz and City Manager Charmelle Garrett said they preferred it to be open.

Soliz asked why they needed a "security blanket tying them to their job" and wanted them to undergo a written evaluation similar to other city employees.

Gwosdz defended the need for a contract.

"It is my job to say no to my boss," he said.

In his reasoning, he pointed to open records complaints spurred by possible illegal meetings in which one former and three current council members were involved.

"We saw in very public episodes in the last calendar year where it was my job to guide this council in a direction some of my seven bosses didn't agree with," he said. "I don't think that council would be satisfied having an employee who made their decisions based on whether or not they thought they were going to get fired that night."

Garrett said the contract is a standard for people in their positions.

"At any given time, the politics can change, and city managers can find themselves unemployed without cause," she said. "It's protection for my job dealing with seven elected officials, quite frankly."

Soliz was unwavering in her argument and request for written evaluations: "I'm asking Charmelle, and I'm asking Thomas, why do you feel you have to have a contract?"

Mayor Paul Polasek, growing frustrated with the conversation, eventually interrupted: "What's your point?"

Councilman Tom Halepaska, owner of Halepaska's Bakery, said the evaluations should be ongoing.

"I don't talk to my employees once a year; I talk to them daily," he said. "We shouldn't wait and fill up a form, add up all the little marks and here's your score."

Soliz said the city manager and city attorney should not "feel threatened" in their employment and compared it to the vulnerability of being elected.

Councilman Jeff Bauknight pointed out that council members do not "make a living off this position."

Soliz made a motion to require "a more structured evaluation."

The motion died without a second.



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