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City’s Own Study Does Not Support Recent Raises for Assistant City Managers

Posted on July 10, 2016

City’s Own Study Does Not Support Recent Raises for Assistant City Managers

Tallahassee Reports has received a copy of the pay study that City Manager Fernandez used as support for the the recently reported executive level pay raises.View City’s “market rate study” here.

Surprisingly, the numbers reported in the study do not support the majority of the pay raises.

This report addresses only the Assistant City Manager (ACM) position. Future reports will address other positions.

Last week TR broke the story on the executive level pay raises doled out by City Manager Rick Fernandez, which in some cases exceeded $40,000 per employee.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported that, “The salaries started off as recommendations from the city’s Human Resources and Workforce Development department, which conducted a market rate study ordered by Fernandez. City staff studied government and utility salaries in cities like West Palm Beach, Gainesville and Lakeland, among others. They also studied salaries at public utilities.”

Commissioner Gil Ziffer told the Democrat that “When Mr. Fernandez first presented the increases a few months ago, he was very clear the salaries in question were comparable to counterparts in similar-sized city governments around the state. I trust his judgment.”

What does the City’s “market rate study” reveal”?

Assistant City Managers

It is important to note that the City’s “market rate study” does not take into account the impact of experience on the reported salaries. For example, the salaries of the two ACM’s in Gainesville are between $135,000 and $145,000. However, TR learned that both ACM’s have been in the position for eight years. All of the City of Tallahassee ACM’s are new to the position.

Also, the “market rate study” does not take into account the impact of positions being publicly advertised. For example, Lakeland currently has an open ACM position that was advertised and reports indicate that approximately 100 applications were received for consideration. Lakeland pays their ACM’s like Gainesville, between $135,ooo and $145,000. None of the City of Tallahassee ACM positions were advertised.

Now the numbers.

City Manager Rick Fernandez promoted and gave raises to three ACM’s. Each of the ACM’s is now making $175,000. This means that the City of Tallahassee is paying $525,000 for three ACM’s with an average salary of $175,000.

The first two columns in the table below is based on information from the City’s “market rate study”. The last two columns, “ACM Positions” and “Total ACM Salary” were added by TR after reviewing organization charts and talking to officials in the comparable cities. CityPayStudy

The average salaries of the comparable group of cities in the pay study is $152,783. The average of the Tallahassee ACM’s is $175,000, or 14.5% higher than the average of the comparable group.

Note that the addition of West Palm Beach has a substantial impact on the comparable group average, given the high salary? Also, why was Lakeland not included? Unlike West Palm Beach, Lakeland runs an electric utility and has the same political structure as the City of Tallahassee.

Even with West Palm Beach in the comparable group, the “market rate study” indicates the recent raises for the ACM positions are not comparable with average salaries of ACM’s in the comparable group.

What about the claim that the ACM’s have accepted more responsibilities and therefore deserve the higher salaries?

Research by TR found that none of the comparable cities have more than two ACM’s. The City of Tallahassee has three. These numbers are reflected in the “ACM Positions” column.

The third column provides the total annual salary paid to ACM’s. The comparable group averages total pay for ACM’s equal to $276,781. The City of Tallahassee pays $525,000. That is 89.9% higher than the comparable group.

These findings raise questions about City Manager Rick Fernendez’s claim  that all of the officials have taken on “higher-level” responsibilities as a result of the reorganization. Are other cities in the comparable group doing more with less managers? Why does Tallahassee need three ACM’s”?

Our next report will look at the other positions and how they compare to salaries in comparable cities.

10 Responses to City’s Own Study Does Not Support Recent Raises for Assistant City Managers

  1. Bard Reply

    July 10, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    I know many citizens that will do it better for a lot better price!

  2. Dr. Erwin Jackson Reply

    July 10, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    Thanks Steve! Your reporting is the only means for the public to learn how we are being financially raped by city management!!!!!!!

  3. HOPE & CHANGE Reply

    July 10, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    There should be a study of comparable cities’ salaries nationwide, not just Florida. I firmly believe that the Florida City governments are in collusion when it comes to salaries, fees, etc. so they all can point to one another to justify their actions or positions.

    Then there needs to be stem to stern shakedown of the City of Tallahassee’s salaries, fees, rates and expenses by an independent firm. Fire the City Manager and bring in someone from the outside while we work on replacing the City Commissioners. Only then can we restore confidence in City Government. Once that is completed, we can start on the County Government. Again, thank TR for documenting and exposing what we suspected was going on in our local government because there was no oversight to keep them honest.

  4. Ben Poitevent Reply

    July 10, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    I am deeply concerned about the private meetings where the public’s business was discussed and approved. Florida law requires the public’s business be discussed only in a public forum. In this case, the raises were approved by the city commissioners in secret, without public oversight. It appears they colluded with the city manager to hoodwink the citizens. They knew a public discussion exposing the raises would likely cause them political harm. Thanks to Tallahassee Reports they were right.

  5. Jeremy Reply

    July 10, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    This is typical of the way the city managers take care of management. When I was there they would always find loopholes and give raises for so called extra responsibilities unless you were a foreman or lower ranking. The management would have meetings telling us how lucky we were to get 2% raises and the next thing you know is the management would change their title and get 10+%. They would never advertise the new titled position just move a manager in the position and most of the time there were no new duties for that person but everyone under them would get extra duties. Its about the time of year when they start having employee cookouts and breakfast meetings to get you to donate to different groups, tell you the city could not afford to give you a raise but generously came up with 2% which is equal to $0.30 per hour and by the way benefits are going up 5%. Hell no there was no money for the working class y’all s*^’s stole it for yourselves.

    • Philip Reply

      July 12, 2016 at 1:08 pm

      The same thing is happening at the state, except it’s zero raises for the workers. Those in my division who were elevated by the Scott administration received 40% raises that are larger than the average salary of 98% of us. They always say there is no money for merit raises for the truly deserving, but they feather their own nests–and their corresponding pension gravy train that we will never see.
      I hear the same thing is happening in the universities: expanding highly-paid upper administration–less for everyone else. This is plutocracy, my friends, and it is clearly bipartisan. Until those at the top are governed by the same ethics rules as we little people, it will continue.

  6. Mike Reply

    July 11, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Great investigative reporting, TR. Finally we have a Tallahassee news outlet that is actually digging and researching into the unethical actions and policies of our city government! For years the citizens have watched city hall corruption and taxes increase despite citizens’ objections and questions.
    All this continued while local newspapers and TV stations rarely (if ever) raised any uncomfortable questions to city officials, nor was any authentic, purposeful investigation attempted. Much of the time local news simply avoided any “controversial” reporting on city actions or policies. The one exception was Preston Scott’s incisive comment and regular questioning of city actions on his radio program.

    TR continues to shine a bright light into areas where city officials do not want it, and reveals a systemic culture of corruption and cronyism that requires a top-to-bottom replacement of the mayor, all city commissioners/officials and their ever-secretive “city staff “. We need a reorganized, less top-heavy city government with no mayor, fewer officials and managers, (with reformed salary levels) and that has a citizen board with oversight on all budget, salary, and tax issues. We also need an available citizen “recall referendum” policy that allows (with a decisive majority vote) the firing of any city official for incompetence, corruption, or failure to strictly abide by city charter laws.

    • Preston Scott

      Preston Scott Reply

      July 11, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      Mike, thanks for the exception. Long ago I wrote an opinion piece which cuts to the heart of what has happened to reporters, especially in small towns. Simply put – they want to be liked. As a result they do not ask uncomfortable, let alone tough, questions. They do ask the obvious follow-up questions. They do not ask for verification of claims. This is why so many public officials refuse to come on to my program or answer direct questions from Tallahassee Reports. Look, as a human being and I wish everyone would like me. However, I accept they just won’t. Reporters are worried about being frozen out of stories by the people they interview. Ever wonder how it is one reporter got so many stories with John Marks and Andrew Gillum before being bumped to fluff pieces? The reporter only wrote nice things and only what they agreed to answer. The reporter never challenged them with appropriate questions. This is why everyone needs to subscribe to Tallahassee Reports and, if you own a business, advertise. There have been efforts made by insiders to hurt this paper financially.

  7. Jake Reply

    July 18, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    Way to cherry pick cities…your graphic and article are terribly misleading due to the biased sampling and the study’s failure to recognize a number of factors/characteristics.

    • Steve

      Steve Reply

      July 18, 2016 at 8:57 pm

      Just to be clear Jake, TR did not pick the cities in the graphic. We reported what the City of Tallahassee included in their pay study.

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