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Gebhardt doubles up on duties officially
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Glenn Gebhardt was formally given a contract Monday evening to double up on duties as director of public works and city engineer - but without a severance package.

Frst hired as the city engineer in January 2009, Gebhardt also took on the duties of public works director on an interim basis since Phil Scott resigned in February. The council also restructured city departments to give him more responsibilities after the elimination the Community Development Director - filled by Ken Craig - effectively putting Gebhardt in charge of the building and planning functions while serving as city engineer.

Gebhardt's new starting salary is $10,814 per month, however, he is taking a 10 percent cut like all city labor groups, taking his salary down to $9,809 per month.

Acknowledging that it was awkward talking publicly about an employee's contract, Mayor Anthony Cannella plunged the council into a discussion of whether the city could afford severance packages for directors.

City Manager Brad Kilger recommended that Gebhardt's position come with a three-month severance package instead of the previously offered six-month package. But Cannella said he has had to grit his teeth when paying out severance packages, such as when the city laid off Craig and Recreation Director Doug Lemcke. He expressed concern at the disparity between public and private sector jobs, saying few in private engineering have severance packages offered.

"I just don't see a need for a severance package," reiterated Cannella.

He also noted having difficulty with offering 10 days of administrative time off. Kilger, however, said that it is a typical practice of cities in lieu of paying overtime and suggested "if we're going to be competitive, we need to provide it."

Vice Mayor Ken Lane suggested a compromise, offering increased severance with years of service. Councilman Guillermo Ochoa argued the need to extend the severance package to Gebhardt, noting the city just offered one to newly hired Finance Director Sheila Cumberland. Ochoa also noted that special consideration should be made to employees who do their job well but are layed off and need income while they search for new work. Bret Durosette, a member of the council, sided with Cannella saying with the economic straights, "times need to change."

When it was put to a vote to give Gebhardt a severance package, the council deadlocked in a 2-2 time since Councilman Chris Vierra was absent.

Kilger then "strongly" recommended the council leave Gebhardt's administrative days alone - something Cannella came to accept - but suggested a quick conference with Gebhardt to see how he felt about losing the severance package. He repeated that it is not a normal procedure but called a quick recess. Gebhardt and Kilger walked out of the door and returned less than a minute later. Gebhardt agreed to the concession.

Ochoa, however, suggested the city craft a severance package policy for any and all future directors at a special council study session.

"I would hate to see us penny wise and pound foolish," said Ochoa.

Ceres resident Leonard Shepherd suggested the council offer Gebhardt at least a months' pay should he be terminated, saying "you've asked the man to do double duty." His feelings were echoed by Planning Commissioner Hugo Molina.

The council also eliminated an automotive allowance for Gebhardt, instead giving him use of a city vehicle for city business only and traveling to and from work since he must be available for call-outs for emergencies.

The council did not advertise to the fill the position because Gebhardt has already been with the city for a year and a half and because of his 33 years' experience with public works and engineering. Kilger said Gebhardt has "performed very competently under very difficult circumstances."

Cannella called Gebhardt "the right man for the job" and directly told him that he is "a big asset to the city of Ceres."