Divided City Council approves Duffey contract
COMPTON—After considerable debate, City Council members approved the contract for Howard Duffey to become the city’s new city manager during the Tuesday, July 17, meeting.
Willie Jones, Yvonne Arceneaux and Janna Zurita approved the agreement. Mayor Eric J. Perrodin and Councilwoman Lillie Dobson voted no.
The vote came after Perrodin unleashed another attack about the agreement, focusing on Duffey receiving a $205,000 salary, even though the city is in financial turmoil.
“We have some difficult financial issues lying ahead,” he said. “A $20,000 increase for the city manager is not good for employee morale.”
Perrodin expressed multiple concerns about the decision during the Tuesday, June 3, Council meeting, citing a newspaper interview that alleged that he had already signed a contract with the city before its approval and he continued pursuit of employment in East Palo Alto after accepting the offer by Jones, Arceneaux and Zurita. He also criticized Duffey's public comments to Council members on June 17, which he called disrespectful to Batiste.
“The contract offers 15 hours per month for vacation,” he said. “The personnel rules and regulations say an employee who spends 15 years working for the city is entitled to 13.33 hours per month. It is good that sick time gets accrued indefinitely, and collecting all the time requires 35 years of service. Duffey receives the benefit after 25 years. The agreement bypasses personnel rules and regulations, and sends the wrong message to residents.”
Perrodin said the personal days request in Duffey’s contract exceeds benefits offered to employees, executive and chief executive members.
“Employees get three days per year, designated as accrued sick leave,” he said. “Executives and chief executives get six and seven days. Duffey will get 120 hours per year, or 10 hours per month.”
Zurita said the personnel rules and regulations only apply to civil service employees.
“We will have to deal with the civil service employees if we do any more cutting,” Perrodin said.
Duffey will pay for his own Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) benefit.
Arceneaux asked City Attorney Craig Cornwell to address what she called innuendo, rumors and bad information surrounding the city’s liability if Duffey resigns.
“If I were Mr. Duffey, I would not come,” she said.
Cornwell said the city does not have to pay the salary portion of the severance package if he leaves on his own accord.
“The city does have to pay for any accumulated, but unused, vacation time,” he said.
The situation calls for realistic scenarios, Perrodin said, and the last three city managers had the same language in their contracts.
“If I were the city manager and had a one-year severance buyout, I would ask them if they wanted to keep me around,” he said. “It would not be a great idea. That person would be cancer to the organization, so working out the severance package makes sense.”
Zurita said the contract set the appropriate legal parameters.
“If the city wants to do some dealing with the city manager, an attorney can figure out how to get severance,” she said. “Legally, Duffey will not receive anything if he leaves.”
Perrodin reiterated his allegations after the meeting.
“Duffey can get his severance through mutual agreement between the parties,” he said. “No one mentioned that part of the contract.”
Duffey also receives severance pay if he gives 90-days’ notice.
Arceneaux said during the meeting on June 19 that she chose Duffey because of his redevelopment experience, but no other members explained their decision.
Councilwoman Lillie Dobson said the salary for Duffey concerns her.
“This has nothing to do with him,” she said. “This was outside the budget, and the situation is worse now. He may be a wonderful city manager, but the city wastes so much money on this position, and I cannot support a raise for a city manager at this point.”
Duffey began his tenure on Monday, July 23.
The next City Council meeting is on Tuesday, Sept. 4.