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City salaries need better oversight, says consultant

DJ Becker/The Madera Tribune

Consultant Ron Manfredi, speaks from the podium, Wednesday night, to the City Council and a packed room of residents waiting to hear his analysis of city salaries and the plan for hiring a new city manager.


A consultant’s report that says, in short, that the City of Madera pays higher management salaries overall than do other cities in the Central Valley — also known as the “market median” — was the focus of a special report at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

The pay levels of Madera’s senior municipal administrators have been the subject of considerable public attention — and no small amount of public criticism — since they were revealed through a letter to The Madera Tribune last fall, written by Madera developer Michael Pistoresi.

He had gleaned the figures he presented from “Transparent California,” a web site showing comparisons of what government employees are paid in the state.

Municipal government advisor Ron Manfredi, who at one time was an assistant city administrator of Madera, was hired by the council to examine city employee compensation and other financial considerations, including water rates.

Manfredi told a packed Wednesday night meeting that while he didn’t think any sort of malfeasance had been committed by city council members or city employees, “some stronger oversight is required” to prevent padding of administrative salaries that Manfredi said in his report were some 16 percent higher than similar positions in other Valley cities — some of them bigger and wealthier than Madera — are paid.

He said that for future hires, salaries, benefits and contract terms should be closely examined before any new people are brought on.

This is true as the council seeks a new city manager to replace David Tooley, who retired after some 25 years in December after news of the city’s administrative-salary levels came out.

Tooley’s total compensation, at more than $300,000 a year, was one of the highest for a city administrator in the Valley.

The search for a new city administrator remains under way, and there is no word on what that person will be paid.

Former Police Chief Steve Frazier has been working as interim city administrator for about six months, but is working at his old salary — about $4,000 a month less than Tooley drew — as police chief prior to his retirement in December.

Manfredi said Madera’s administrators were paid according to complicated formulas that used benefits and other payments to pad earnings, making the wage structure appear lower than it really was.

“Costs of benefits are not readily apparent,” Manfredi said. “You can make $10,000 to $20,000 more because that money isn’t shown on the salary chart.”

Manfredi also said costs of retirement through the Public Employee Retirement System and medical plans have “skyrocketed.”

He said there is also “something called management leave pay. It is supposed to be a salary, but does not appear on the budget as a salary.”

Under these management leave policies, a person can accumulate up to 72 days of paid time off.

He said the city pays its retired employees medical coverage until they become eligible for Medicare, but then pays for Medicare supplemental policies.

Then, he looked at the City Council.

“Don’t tell me you knew where this money was, because you don’t,” Manfredi said. “It’s not even in the right categories. The budget is showing that you are not being transparent.”

Pistoresi asked why Fresno was used as a comparator city in salary studies.

Manfredi said he wanted to throw Fresno out of the study because Fresno’s size and wealth would skew the study. But Fresno was retained.

Interviews for the new city administrator are expected to begin sometime in September, said Mayor Andrew Medellin, but, he said, they would be in closed session.

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