With City Manager Steve Pinkerton’s contract up for automatic renewal on Dec. 1, the City Council has called a special closed session meeting Tuesday to discuss his performance.
The council was scheduled to evaluate the city’s manager last week, but ran out of time during closed session due to the other items that were on the agenda. Council members have described this evaluation meeting as routine.
Pinkerton’s contract states that if the council plans not to renew his service with the city, it must give him nine months’ notice. Without any action by the council Tuesday, Pinkerton will be granted a new three-year contract starting Sept. 1, 2014.
Pinkerton was hired in 2011 at an annual salary of $188,000 per year.
After Dec 1., if the council were to decide to terminate Pinkerton’s contract, he’d be granted severance worth nine months of his salary, plus nine months of the cash value of his non-salary COBRA-eligible benefits.
On Tuesday, the council could take no action, in effect, extending Pinkerton’s contract. Or, the council could take a vote not to extend a contract for Pinkerton, who was hired in September 2011 by a council made up of Mayor Joe Krovoza, Mayor Pro Tem Rochelle Swanson, and Council members Dan Wolk, Sue Greenwald and Stephen Souza.
When asked about the performance evaluation this week, Pinkerton said review or no review, he’s always trying to do his best for the city he serves.
“Every day you’ve got to prove yourself,” Pinkerton said. “You’ve got to prove yourself week to week.”
Pinkerton also recognizes the criticism he’s received about employee morale, which has suffered while the city’s leaders have worked to reform employee contracts over the past two years.
With almost all contracts in place, save the Davis Professional Firefighters Association Local 3494, the city manager hopes the city can move on together and improve morale.
Last week, the City Council voted to impose its last, best and final offer on the Davis City Employees Association, substantially cutting take-home pay and benefits for the group, but bringing the association’s compensation in-line with the other major employee groups who signed deals last year.
“I’m trying to get more of a focus these days on our internal operations and our internal culture and how we do business,” Pinkerton said. “(I want to try) to improve employee morale, which is a challenge considering the budget constraints.”
Since taking over in 2011, Pinkerton has guided the city through passage of the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency surface water project, including a public election on the project, the associated controversial water rates and cost-sharing negotiations with Woodland that resulted in a more favorable price tag for Davis.
The city manager also has positioned the city’s finances to better tackle the large and costly backlog of road and bike path pavement maintenance work former council’s have neglected.
Pinkerton also has navigated the city through the bidding process for the $95 million wastewater treatment plant upgrades and helped process the application for The Cannery project, the first real subdivision to come through the city in decades.
“I think Steve Pinkerton is doing a good job,” Councilman Brett Lee said in a statement. “He has joined the city at a difficult time in the city’s history. We have had to ask the employees to pay more for their pension and retirement costs. And we have had to confront the fact that the city had not been paying adequate amounts towards infrastructure maintenance and repairs.
“Steve has shown that he is willing to dig in and help the city through this difficult time.”
Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson also noted that Pinkerton arrived to the city during an “incredibly tumultuous time” and yet “has always worked to be optimistic in his challenging role managing staff and interfacing with council members.”
“I have appreciated his opening up the city manager’s office by being willing to meet with community members who have questions or concerns,” Swanson added in a statement.
The majority of the City Council members, however, did not feel comfortable discussing Pinkerton’s performance in the public realm.
Councilman Lucas Frerichs, who along with Lee was not on the dais when Pinkerton was hired, said in a statement that he would not discuss personnel issues in detail beyond the fact that this is a routine evaluation.
Frerichs also said that “the current city manager was hired before I was elected to the City Council, and therefore I did not participate in the search and hiring process.”
Added Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk: “In our council-manager form of government in Davis, hiring and evaluating a city manager is one of the most important things we City Council members do. Because of this, it’s appropriate that we hear from our constituents — and I have received a number of comments and I welcome them.
“However, I’m not going to comment on the evaluation, nor on the comments I’ve received, due to the confidential, personnel matter this is.”
Krovoza kept his comments about the evaluation brief.
“I do not feel it’s appropriate to comment on the contract (or to) discuss personnel items in public,” Krovoza said Friday. “The council should deliberate (in closed session).”
— Reach Tom Sakash at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash