Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Mon, April 06

City Attorney proposed to be Deputy Administrator too and negotiate salary with Council

After over an hour in executive session, behind closed doors away from public record as suggested by Councilman Harold Soehner and seconded by Councilwoman Stephanie Lugo, Council discussed the possible new salaried contract position of deputy city administrator for the city of Winslow. Councilwomen Sue Bumpus and Judy Howell voted to keep the discussion public.

According to Council's vote to contact the Attorney General about the issue, it became clear City Attorney Dale Patton was being considered for the position.

"What they want to do is combine these positions of deputy administrator and city attorney," said City of Winslow Human Resources Director Sherri Lancaster.

When Council returned from the executive session, Bumpus asked that Council seek outside opinion from the Arizona Attorney General's Office on the matter of combining the paid positions of city attorney and deputy administrator.

"Any opposed?" asked Mayor Allan Affeldt after all of Council approved contacting the Attorney General's Office for advice even though Soehner, Lugo, Councilmen Peter Cake and Robin Boyd earlier in that same meeting voted in advocacy for the new position.

These two related previous votes did pass. Both were 4 ­ 3 (Soehner, Lugo, Cake and Boyd) against (Howell, Bumpus and Affeldt) in favor of creating the deputy administrator position and to classify it as deserving of contract negotiations that could likely bring in a larger salary for the position if requested. The same four also voted in the meeting two weeks ago to keep hiring internal and not look outside of the City or Winslow for recruitment.

City Attorney Dale Patton who normally joins Council for legal advice in executive sessions, remained outside with the public during the May 8, executive session, which combined with the fact that the City will be contacting the Arizona Attorney General's Office for advice about having a city attorney also be the deputy administrator, means that City Attorney Dale Patton is seeking the position of deputy administrator.

Lancaster said she does not know the policy for combining two high salary positions especially since they can be determined by Council and more than likely in executive session since that is the way the Council has always conducted the business of determining salary as is in accordance with Arizona law. This law also allows the person being considered for the position or Council to vote to keep the discussion open to the public.

Earlier in the Council meeting, Howell protested the creating of a new high salary position of deputy administrator because she said the City has other things that need to be paid for.

"For the last seven years, I sat in these Council chambers and listened to 'we don't have the money for more police officers or firefighters.' We are top-heavy right now in administration," Howell said.

She said that she listens to the scanners and hears that many are working 12-hour days or called back into work right after they get off work.

"I really don't think we can justify a deputy administrator over the police force when Council's primary job is to protect the health, safety and welfare of our citizens," Howell.

Affeldt agreed that he would rather see the police force strengthened.

"I have to differ with that. If we can get the upper management going strong then everything else will fall into place," said Councilman Peter Cake.

"Did you ever hear the phase, 'too many chiefs and not enough Indians?'" Howell asked Cake.

"Yeah, but we're growing see. I've run into this at work. We've grown so much we've had to add more crews," Cake said.

After creating the deputy administrator position, the next subject was where to classify it ‹ as a high paying contract or a salary based on an average range.

"What I've experienced with it is if you give a specific range on salary to those positions then you in fact will discourage some people," said City Administrator Jim Ferguson.

He suggested it would not be beneficial to cap administrative salaries. All other city employees and department heads are paid salaries based on a set pay range classification. He also said that position rank is a factor in determining the salary.

"Why would you negotiate a deputy administrator's contract but not a police chief's contract?" Affeldt asked.

"It's really a traditional thing, not for just the city of Winslow but in other cities as well, to have contracts for positions that are of a contract nature ­ like city administrators and managers and city attorneys. Deputy administrators can go both ways. Anything outside of those positions you will rarely find a contract for."

"In looking at this comparison of cities above and below us in population it is interesting to note that six have a salary range plan for their city administrators and four have contracts," Bumpus said. "It is not a majority that has a contract for their city administrator."

The Arizona League of Cities and Towns classifies Winslow with cities of similar populations like Wickenburg, Page and Bisbee to name a few. Of these cities, only two are reported to have city managers on contract.

Last year the Winslow City Manager as making $108,360 with over $8,000 in paid benefits. The Winslow City Attorney made $87,312 plus benefits. By making these administrative positions outside of the salary classification system used on normal city employees, then those up for these administrative positions can negotiate their own contracts and salaries.

According to Lancaster, if two positions are combined into one, it has been their practice to increase that single employees current salary by 5 percent.

She said contracts for administrative positions are a lot different than normal city staff employment since the person available for an administrative position can now name their desired salary.

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