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Long council meeting ends in OK of contracts

In a 6-1 vote, near the end of a meeting that adjourned at 11 p.m., the Madera City Council approved the renewal and acceptance of previously negotiated contracts of seven senior city department heads.

The the new contracts will run three years for the positions of grant administrator, city engineer, chief of police, chief building official, IT manager, director of financial services, and director of human resources. Salaries vary by position and length of service, but salaried department heads are considered “at will” employees.

Santos Garcia of District 5 was the only no vote, and said the elimination of only high end benefits did not go far enough, and it was just not enough in reductions to remedy the excesses of the past, that had been piled onto the top of the salaries.

City residents were still urging the council to make more staff changes, and had long been objecting to senior city salaries and benefit packages discovered in 2016 to be significantly above the median wages paid in Fresno or other surrounding Central Valley cities. The council did vote in mid March to not renew the contracts of the director of parks and community services and the director of community development.

Garcia said the contracts had been the subject of much intense closed session discussion, “but the votes were just not there to make any more changes at this time. We promised the people we were going to take hard steps and make difficult decisions. At the end of the day we came up short (of what residents were asking us to do.) Nothing else has changed, other than the elimination of some benefits. Basically they are going to keep the (same) salaries that they had before.” Garcia said.

In a gesture of solidarity, Arnoldo Rodriguez, who was selected as Madera City manager in December, voluntarily relinquished the $4,200 annual car allowance that had originally been included in his contract. Rodriguez said city employment contracts had been clarified and the language simplified, and he and staff were reviewing almost all current expenditures for potential savings. He also presented information before the council, showing the significant, but projected, future cost savings because of the elimination of the above city benefits for the department heads.

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