New Information Contradicts City Manager Fernandez’s Defense of Double-Digit Raises

New Information Contradicts City Manager Fernandez’s Defense of Double-Digit Raises

Tallahassee Reports has learned that the substantial raises given by City Manager Rick Fernandez to executive staff has resulted in annual salaries that are significantly higher than salaries for the same position in comparable Florida cities.

These findings contradict the assertion by City Manager Rick Fernandez that the substantial increases in salaries were justified based on comparable positions in city governments that included Gainesville and Lakeland.

TR asked for and received salary information for the assistant city manager position in the cities of Gainesville and Lakeland earlier today.

The information shows that Gainesville has two assistant city managers that have an annual salary of $136,000 and $141,000. Both employees have been in the assistant city manager positions for 8 years.

The City of Lakeland has a deputy city manager that has an annual salary of makes $132,600 and has been on the job for two-months and an assistant city manager position that is vacant. The vacant position is being advertised with a salary range between $85,000 and $158,000 per year. Based on press reports, over 100 people have applied for the position.

In contrast, the City of Tallahassee has three assistant city managers who each have a salary of $175,000 and a deputy city manager with a salary of $185,000. All of the employees are new to their positions and none were advertised.

53 Responses to "New Information Contradicts City Manager Fernandez’s Defense of Double-Digit Raises"

  1. Just move out of the city, shop at stores outside the city limits. Shop in Monticello, or Thomasville. They cannot spend what yoi don’t give them. I do it everyday! Plus, I spend a lot less money shopping in any town but Tallahassee!

  2. Mr. Stewart – I stand corrected. The reporting was accurate. I got caught up in the content of the posts, which were universally anti- Fernandez.

    I think Fernandez has a plan to eliminate duplication, streamline management, and improve overall customer service. If his statement is correct that the net effect of his changes led to a $900,000 payroll savings, I’m all in.

    The extreme pay increases for several senior managers is still a bit offensive, but maybe justified. Maybe he should have spread those increases over several years.

    In any event, my “apology” to you.

  3. TR doesn’t owe anyone an apology. The articles and reports and have been factually correct. They did not seem personal or mean. It should not have taken a FOIA request to find out about a total reorganization of your local government that included up to $50,000 raises to upper management. I am sure that Mr. Fernandez would be the first to agree. If he had explained his plans in January and then disclosed the unusually high salaries of promoted personnel in advance, then maybe there would have been much less for the average taxpayer to be upset with. His justification of paying assistant city managers $175,000 is still highly debatable. According to a 2016 study of city manager salaries in Texas shows that Tallahassee pays its assistant city managers more than every ACM in Texas except for 3 cities, one of which is Austin population 885,000

  4. I asked for the other side of the story on July 1and Fernandez offered it today at the Commission meeting. While it was a bit rushed due to the venue, it laid out his thinking and approach to managing the city. If the data was correct, I’d say that my opinion has been swayed.

    TR either owes him an apology for jumping the gun or a pretty compelling reason to refute his presentation. Or, as “From the cheap eats” notes, the article was just to stir the pot and lacked credibility from the start. Fernandez publicly apologized for the way he handled the “rollout”. The least you could do is to reciprocate.

    1. Mr. Trump, our report was based on City provided information. The assistant city manager salaries are not comparable to salaries provided by City in their own pay study. Mr. Fernendez’s presentation did not change that information. We stand by our reporting.

  5. By the way, I’m so liberal that I don’t think Bernie Sanders is liberal enough & I was a former City employee & was relentlessly bullied when I tried to intervene in shady / unethical (crony) behavior. So you can zip it about this being gross liberals raising their own salaries.

  6. It’s disgusting, but unsurprising. None of the top positions get advertised, but the lower-level ones SURE DO. They will AVOID promoting qualified public servants who work their BUTTS off for very little reward, but the cronyism is LEGION. How many people do they keep on as temps so they don’t have to pay benefits? Yuck, yuck, yuck.

  7. As engaged as these responses are, I am surprised to see how poorly understood is our form of local government. We have a representative form of local government where the City manager has full operational authority. In fact, it is written such that no commissioner has the power to intervene in the decisions under the authority of the manager. The City commission’s “power” comes from the ability to hire and fire the manager at will, and has authority over the budget. The Mayor theoretically has authority to set / shape the agenda, but that is debatable. The Commission as a whole has the ability to to bring issues and projects forward, but it’s up to the manager and staff to evaluate and implement. All this said, the position of the Commissioner is considered to be a part-time job. Debbie Lightsey had merit when she pointed out, compensation is not commiserate with the perceived duties and responsibilities.

    Let’s get real folks. Our power is in our vote, and we get a shot at getting it right every two years. If, collectively, we don’t like the deal we have? VOTE and participate. Show up! Tell the Mayor he doesn’t get a pass on refusing to talk to reporters who don’t take favorable positions on his leadership. Call, email or physically GO TO city hall and communicate with *your* public servants – elected, appointed or hired. We also must expect to pay for those things we want, and should expect to get what we pay for. One doesn’t need to be a bully when participating, but it’s on us if we don’t make the time to do the work.

  8. Is there ever a dissenting view on these pages? Any research, back checking facts, speaking with non-senior City staff, etc.?

    This site is almost a cult following, Let’s look at all the facts before forming our decisions. Someone mentioned the reorganization at theCity – have these raises collectively been salary neutral, net reduction, or net increase?

    Maybe that doesn’t sway my opinion because the raises and salaries are so extreme, but those are the facts I’d like to learn.

    TR – please do a follow up article with that info.

    1. Trump – I’ve found that follow ups that state the more complete and well researched presentation of the situation either further supporting or counterbalancing the information initially reported don’t normally occur. (Some articles don’t even appear to be proof read.)

      While many of the articles positively address civic issues, it is still true that scandal is good for circulation and ratings, and nefarious scandal even more so.

      Here specifically, it may very well be that the increases are out of line; they may be justified by additional job duties acquired by realignment, consolidation and staff attrition. There may actually be a net savings with these moves. Based on what’s reported, you can’t tell. But what’s reported hits a nerve, fits a narrative, and fires everybody up.

  9. You know that nothing will change. We who frequent this website are a minority. And the rest of the city doesn’t pay attention and doesn’t care.

  10. We need to realize that the time has come for action. There are enough good people in our community capable of public service. Let us take our government back. If you know someone trustworthy and talented ask them to run and help them. If not, run yourself. Nothing will change without direct action.

  11. It is interesting to note, that most of the retired city employees I know, move to Wakulla, Jefferson of Liberty counties after they retire. Do you think they know something? In addition, when you read the obits, and it is a retired city employee, they are not residents of the City. It speaks volumes.

  12. Amen Roger, we were a year after you! When in January 2015 all the noise about 27% property taxes were in the works, we took early retirement moved away from our families to the North Georgia mountains, peaceful, four seasons and inexpensive. This nonsense started after the 2008 election and eight years later it is getting worse. Just wait till the new ” mileage tax” goes ineffective, coming soon to Tallahassee. You will get a shock when you buy your yearly tags, as your previous mileage with be part of the fee. Every tag we have in Union County is $20. Yes we did have to pay a one time tax on on our vehicles, but we sure are loving the $980.00 property tax bill on a 2600 square foot home on 1.5 acres of land. In 2010 and 2012 change could of came but people didn’t care……. But you have Cascade park, Side walks everywhere, one way on Gaines Street, and high paid city staff….. Outstanding.

  13. First off, I take no position on the City Manager.

    Second off, Tallahassee City Managers have never been “removed”. Can’t be done.

  14. In your opinion do you believe it possible to file a lawsuit against the city and/or the mayors office over all of these money games? They stole our money and lined their own pockets clearly. Maybe Morgan & Morgan will take on the case – for the people right?

  15. Come the next election, will enough angry voters remember all of this and get:
    1. A NEW mayor or better yet, abolish the mayor position completely.
    Less taxpayer money spent – good!
    2. All NEW commissioners, no familiar faces. First assignment: Roll back all
    recent tax increases and salaries to staffers, City Manager &
    Asst. City Managers. Any staffer that dosen’t like that can resign, at the
    reduced salary rate. Retirements will be deducted/reduced according to
    years of service.
    3. NEW city staff, commencing with the NEW Commissioner’s power to
    hire/fire any existing staffers with a majority evaluation and vote.
    4. By a voter petition with a sufficient number of signatures, ANY City
    Commissioner can be recalled/fired by voter referendum at any time.
    This means no waiting for another election
    to replace a self-serving or incompetent commissioner.
    5. A Voter Representation Board composed of seven revolving citizens,
    members of the Budget Hawks,etc. that has COMPLETE city budget
    access/oversight and must approve ANY raises for
    city commissioners/staffers.

    OR – will the same old shell games and rigging that allows only long-time city insiders to get on the election ballot occur again, and we’ll be stuck with the same rotten, corrupt, and outright antagonistic city government? We all know the familiar handouts and under-table money/promises will be used to keep the same old faces in power. We have to generate enough
    voter determination and effort to change the usual outcome.
    Remember at election time: the smiling faces of the same old downtown gang wanting your vote. Those smiles are for themselves, not for the voters.

  16. Thus is the biggest reason I left Tallahassee in 2014.I grew up here in the 60s and 70s, moved back in 2005 and could not stomach the corruption.

  17. The issue that infuriates me the most? These elitists can bestow these incredibly inflated wages, but when it comes time to insure that the employees who truly *do* the work are compensated fairly, these same managers have a hard time finding a 3-5% in the annual budget!?! Why aren’t employees of the “All American City” good enough to receive a 35-50% raise as well?

  18. Tallahassee’s city politics is just as dirty as that of Washington, DC. This is not a new issue in Tallahassee; it has been going on for many years – the self promotion and greed.

  19. If the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court could get one of those city jobs, he would get a $50,000 raise.

    1. Actually, State Justices make $162K, but it is still below what Asst. City Managers make in Tallahassee. The City Manager’s pay it ridiculous. The average nation-wide is $84K, for large cities the average is $151K. Fernandez is making around $224K.

      1. Preston,

        Who do you recommend that the citizens of Tallahassee vote for in the upcoming election? To vote out incumbents, citizens will need to be unified on who to elect or as typical, voters will vote for the name they recognize. Please name each district candidate you would vote for if you lived in the said district.

        There is still time to throw our support towards these candidates. We all need to unify as a city and our districts. The time has come for the citizens of Tallahassee to not accept the mistreatment of our tax dollars and hold accountable the current administration.

        And I might add, it is not to early to start thinking about who would be best mayor prospect. Gillum has got to go.

        1. Let me respond a couple of ways. 1) I do not think this is a complicated election. Despite issues we all know about Commissioner Maddox is the one Commissioner who is consistently pro business. Scott seems unwilling to pick fights and, in most occasions, I understand why. But, not now. Scott needs to step out, the problem is he has been a Rick Fernandez supporter. Unless he cuts ties with his support Scott is a challenge because he will likely win reelection. I think some of these issues cannot be defended, so I have some hope. The other race has a viable candidate opposing the incumbent (Curtis Richardson) who has voted for tax increases. 2) The other thing the citizens can do (and it will take another two years to do it) would be two referendum. One – do away with the Mayor’s position and go to a rotating Mayor as we used to have. Gillum, with his posturing for national positions, working for People for The American Way, etc. is proving we do not need a leadership Mayor; Two – require Commissioners live in districts. Right now all are at-large and we are one of the few places in the state which does it this way. There you go. The short version on what I suggest.

  20. It is time to call for his head based on unethical behavior. If we do nothing is will fester until we look like Detroit. If the commissioners don’t act, No seated commissioner should get a single vote.

  21. I’m guessing that the city administrators retained and promoted by Mr. Fernandez were his friends long before he became City Manager (perhaps, unlike some of those who were demoted or let go by Mr. Fernandez). The city employees receiving these significant pay raises were already receiving hefty salaries (six figures) before the pay raises. Their survival in no way depends on these raises. As someone with more education and an income about one-third of each of these administrators’ new incomes, I can tell you first-hand that this is another example of: It is who you know, not what you know, that matters!

    1. Stephen is right. Under Fernandez’ administration it’s all about who you know. This discovery is only the tip of the iceberg. His unethical use of taxpayers monies has been going on long before he became city manager.

  22. Do the commissioners vote on these increases or are they at the Manager’s discretion? The raises seem extreme, but recent reorganization throughout the City significantly increased the responsibilities of many employees.

    I understand the outcry., but I’d like to look a little deeper before jumping on the bandwagon.

    1. Either rhe commissioners knew about the increases and approved them, or they did not know about them. If it is the former, the mayor and commissioners are equally culpable for poor management. If it is the latter, we now know the staff, not the commission, is running the city. The commissioners are not doing what we elected them to do.

      1. The staff is running the City and the Commissioners believe they are part of the staff. They have no idea what is expected of them as elected commissioners.

        The truth is that staff raised property taxes last year to give themselves +30% raises this year knowing full well that most of the public are unable to put two and two together. The blind sheep will keep voting for the status quo.

        I agree with Preston that unless we vote for change things will only get worst. Again, thank you TR for printing what no one else will.

        1. I saw the writing on the wall 5 years ago and moved out of the city and into the county. Trying to stop the City of Tallahassee shenanigans is like trying to stop the tide from coming in. Kudos to the fighters, but we are far outnumbered by the liberals within the city limits. Crime is up. City officials salaries are up. Taxes are up. All will go higher.

  23. This at a time where your police are getting a 1.5 percent raise and having their overtime budget slashed by $385,000. The most violent city in Florida and over 50 positions understaffed and they do this. No one in their right mind should concider moving to Tallahassee.

  24. Wow! Thanks to TR, because without them, the citizens would know nothing. This is really horrible and all the Commisdionerd should be explaining their position on this. Vote them all out. Schack2018!!

  25. You relate salaries comparable to other Florida cities. Well, if you look at large cities like Boston, you will see that city manager makes $175,000 while deputy managers make $98,000. Boston – Tallahassee; large – small. Some things do not compute when it comes to Tallahassee. Someone needs to put on the brakes!!!!

  26. Commissioners went with an insider for City Manager and did not even bother to look at anyone else. This is what happens. This is what it looks like for City bureaucrats to give taxpayers the middle-finger. They are daring each and every single voter to do something about it. If voters in the City do not hold Commissioners responsible this election and the next what is happening now will look like child’s play compared to what will come next.

    1. Our elected officials lie to their taxpayers over and over. They know that we know that they are lying. They do not care. They do not listen to us. We are simply an inconvenience to them re diving their big paycheck so, Cadillac health care plans and lifetime pensions after early retirements. We talk about voting in better people but the monster just gets bigger and more arrogant. Really, what’s next?

    2. Our elected officials lie to their taxpayers over and over. They know that we know that they are lying. They do not care. They do not listen to us. We are simply an inconvenience to them receiving their big paychecks, Cadillac health care plans and lifetime pensions after early retirements. We talk about voting in better people but the monster just gets bigger and more arrogant. Really, what’s next?

    3. Preston: No one seems to be addressing the additional financial burden of retirement benefits down the road. Jacksonville is a classic example of what not to do.

  27. Why is it the city officials in Tallahassee can’t be trusted?. Why are we paying asst city managers so much more than other cities? Is it because no matter what they spend it will be covered by taxes being raised. This is shameful !!

    1. A few years ago, when we gave a hefty raise to the new “strong mayor” position, why wasn’t the position of City Manager eliminated? I thought that was the job of a mayor, managing a city.

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