The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Council approves city manager’s pay bump

 

WOLFGANG KURTZ | THE SEWARD PHOENIX LOG

Seward City Manager Jim Hunt absorbed in his duties, contemplates the proceedings at a regularly scheduled City Council Meeting.

City of Seward Mayor David Seaward objected to City Manager Jim Hunt’s severance package at Monday’s regular session of the Seward City Council. Hunt’s salary, severance and yearly evaluation were on the agenda for the previous meeting of the council during a closed executive session. During that private conference, Hunt and the council penciled in changes to the city manager’s compensation that increased his salary as well as his severance from four months salary to nine months payable upon any future termination of his contract by council.

Calling Hunt’s nine-month severance excessive, Seaward proposed an amendment reducing the perquisite to six months. Hunt objected to the further discussion of the terms of his compensation bundle based on his assertion that the terms had been negotiated in good faith at the previous closed-door session. Seaward countered that, during executive session, he had objected to the extent of the change in severance benefits. Hunt then raised the issue of the legitimacy of revealing details of the prior executive session, noting that only he was able to publicly disclose personnel matters pertaining to his own employment.

Comments from councilors and advice from the city clerk established that, while the private discussions and deliberations remained confidential, the ensuing contract and its terms were open to disclosure and debate. Hunt nevertheless said he felt blindsided by the mayor’s objection and questioned the wisdom of publicly raising the issue immediately before a high profile lobbying tour by Hunt and Assistant City Manager Ron Long. However, Monday’s council session was the only forum where the city manager’s compensation was open to scrutiny before the public ahead of enactment by the council.

Notwithstanding his objection to the severance, Seaward did not raise an issue over the city manager’s increase in yearly salary to $105,000 from $97,000. However Seaward did vote against approval of Hunt’s entire employment contract after the failure of his amendment to the resolution which redefined that contract.

Among the other council members, Councilor Ristine Casagranda supported Seaward’s amendment reducing the severance bonus but, after it failed, joined the members present in approving the overall compensation package. The document authorizing the new contract is City of Seward Resolution 2013-013. The former contract and benefits were spelled out in City of Seward Resolution 2011-075.

Hunt now makes $8,750 per month and receives 13 hours of paid leave monthly According a comparative report of Alaska city employees, entitled “City of Homer Salary & Benefit Survey 2010/2011,” the present city manager’s former compensation ranked near the low end of the pack of similar Southcentral Alaska communities. For example, at that time the Cordova’s city manager was at $46.63 per hour, Soldotna’s city manager was paid $63.63 per hour and Hunt’s wages were at $46.63 per hour (see table).

The city manager does not receive regular pay increases or cost of living adjustments as do other city employees. These factors were cited as the justification for the new resolution. The current three-year term of Hunt’s employment began Oct. 31, 2011 and expires Oct. 31, 2014.

 

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