A scorned City Council read Mayor Alan Webber the riot act Wednesday as members scolded both staff and the mayor for not disclosing a series of year-long pay raises for a handful of select city employees.
Many of the raises, between 10 and 15 percent, are going to management-level city employees who are helping to craft new financial procedures and to implement a new software system designed to better track how the city does business.
All told, the raises total some $400,000 for 39 employees over the next year. They were requested by Deputy City Manager Renee Martinez in January and approved by City Manager Brian Snyder in March as Webber was sworn in as mayor.
Rather than councilors learning about the package of raises in a formal way, the raises were first reported by The New Mexican. Webber told the paper that Martinez briefed him earlier on the pay increases, but said they didn't get into specifics.
As word of the increases spread, other city employees and city councilors became irate that the increases hadn't received the level of scrutiny other pay raises had.
Just prior to Wednesday's meeting, the city released a seven-page report (see below) by Webber describing his efforts to figure out what went sideways. Webber said he planned to keep the raises in place, but review additional employees in the Land Use Department who might qualify because of their involvement in the project, an enterprise resource planning software revamp known within the city as Project ¡Andale!.
Halfway through the meeting when councilors had the chance to bring up issues, Peter Ives thanked the mayor and asked if he planned to have any further comment on it.
"I thank you for your question," Webber replied, by way of an answer.
But Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth wouldn't let the mayor off the hook.
Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler, who had a turn as the city's human resources director in the past, called Martinez' lack of disclosure "disingenuous."
“In the short time that I’ve been here, less than $400 has come before us (for approval). I just can’t believe that $400,000 wasn’t,” she said. “Right now, I really don’t trust a lot and in the future I will probably be asking more questions than anybody wants to hear.”
After brushing Ives’ earlier inquiry aside, Webber pivoted and said he was “happy” to discuss the raises, which had “managed to touch every nerve of every person who could possibly be upset about it.”
The mayor said the software update and new procedures were vital to making Santa Fe a user-friendly city and addressed dozens of deficiencies raised by a financial review conducted by McHard Accounting Consulting. But the process by which the raises were doled out was too secretive, he said. Webber met with city staff this week on the issue reports that a suggestion by Snyder to develop a plan to explain to other employees why some of their colleagues were getting raises was not followed. In addition, Webber said, the city failed to communicate with the union that represents city workers, and with the public.
“That lack of a communication plan is really the heart of the matter,” Webber told councilors.
But Mike Harris, one of the councilors who's been serving since before the latest election, bristled at being left out of the loop by city staff and the mayor.
“This really cuts to the quick. I am serious. It just does,” Harris said. The amount of the raises, which will move upwards of $400,000 once Land Use increases are added, demanded more transparency, he said.