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City Council to evaluate performance of City Manager Steve Pinkerton

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From page A1 | November 24, 2013 | 4 Comments

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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 tsakash@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at tsakash@davisenterprise.net, (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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Discussion | 4 comments

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  • Rich RifkinNovember 25, 2013 - 8:56 am

    Hopefully, this Council has the wisdom to retain Steve Pinkerton as our City Manager. I have heard from one current member of the City Council who supports Mr. Pinkerton that there is reason to fear that at least two others on the Council oppose keeping Pinkerton. I'm not certain if the reason they want a new City Manager is a result of their relationship with the firefighters. (My source on the Council told me it is more complicated than that.) But it is very clear--in light of their current contract imbroglio, the department's recent staffing changes and the move to employ the UC Davis fire chief as the chief for the DFD, too--that the union which represents the Davis firefighters very much wants to get rid of Steve Pinkerton and replace him with someone with someone more amenable to their plans (like our three previous city managers who doubled their compensation). ......... Amid all of this, the Davis firefighters recently pushed four elected officials (L. Wolk, M. Yamada, D. Saylor and J. Provenza) and one former elected (H. Thomson) to sign an error-filled letter to the Davis City Council, opposing Mr. Pinkerton's plan to hire Nathan Trauernicht, the UCD fire chief, as the new chief of the DFD. The union was behind that letter because, clearly, they don't think they can control Chief Trauernicht the way they could always control Rose Conroy, who appeared to let the fire union run her. Unfortunately, the voters in Davis are too ill-informed to punish those elected officials for this dirty deed. And the members of the Council likely will be influenced by it, because they understand the monetary power the unions have over them.

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  • R FranklinNovember 25, 2013 - 11:25 pm

    I'm sorry Rich. You seem to say that the firefighters have a relationship with certain city council members. I would think they have relationships with all the city council members. I mean isn't the city council the people that decide, through the city manager they hire and the fire chief the city manager hires, the policies in their department. And it is my understanding that policy does not control the firefighters pay but their operations, training and most importantly the firefighter's safety. You say that you have no ill will towards firefighters only they get paid too much. Well your comment above is proof that you are a liar. But Op-Ed writers always get to write whatever they want. I mean it's just your opinion, right?

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  • November 26, 2013 - 11:00 am

    "You say that you have no ill will towards firefighters only they get paid too much." ...... I have no ill will. Firefighters provide a valuable public service. And their courage is admirable. Yet given the limits of our city's revenues, we are paying the firefighters far too much now in salary, cash-outs, overtime, current benefits and retirement benefits. (Firefighters now make one-third more than most sworn Davis police officers with the same amount of time on the job.) Even worse for our budget, future costs built into their contracts--lifetime Cadillac medical coverage upon early retirement and unbelievably expensive pension funding costs, which will double by 2021 under PERS' current plans--will cost the jobs of many more City employees. Davis is like so many other agencies with avaricious unions--we will go bankrupt without changing course very soon. ........ "Well your comment above is proof that you are a liar." ......... This is a non-sequitur. What lie have I told?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich RifkinNovember 26, 2013 - 11:02 am

    Sorry, the 11 AM comment was by Rich Rifkin. I pressed enter before noticing that my name was not on the form.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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