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Council wants Wells as city manager
Acting City Manager Toby Wells - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier file photo

A move to give Toby Wells more compensation for taking on the duties of acting city manager of Ceres segued into an April 14 discussion of hiring him as a permanent city manager.

The council tabled a salary increase but agreed to bring one back - retroactively - and offer Wells the top city position.

Wells, who is also city engineer and Public Works Director, said he is open to being the full-time city manager and stated his discomfort without a contract and asked the council to hasten a decision. He also said he didn't mind a decision being appointed the full-time city manager held off until June because the 2014-15 fiscal year budget will be finalized and labor negotiations will be over.

"Doing all three jobs, it's not likely that I'm going to do any one of those three perfectly as well as I'd like to," said Wells, who suggested keeping him as "acting city manager" for a while.

Councilman Mike Kline said he had no problem increasing the salary for Wells, who recently was made acting city manager in addition to his other duties. Wells replaced Art deWerk, who as Public Safety Director, had served as acting city manager for nearly three and a half years. But Kline did have a problem will giving Wells a 22 percent pay increase, from $9,809 to $12,000 per month retroactive to March 17 when he took on the added responsibilities.

Kline saw the need for a raise "because we're asking him to do more work," but suggested a 12 percent raise.

"How can one function knowing that some of his subordinates have the possibility to be paid more money than he is?" said Kline. "Then I look at we're currently in negotiations with all groups within the city and we continue to ask them to maintain a salary reduction."

The 12 percent, said Kline, would re-establish the 10 percent pay reduction that Wells took a couple of years ago and "gives him a couple of percentages of a raise."

Kline suggested the smaller raise, then deciding in two month whether to appoint him as the permanent city manager.

Vice Mayor Bret Durossette was ready, however, to "appoint him as city manager today and not be the ‘acting.'"

Both agreed that the action could not be taken during the Monday, April 14 meeting since it was not on the agenda.
Councilmember Linda Ryno suggested reducing a proposed severance package from six months to three months if Wells would be remaining in an "acting" position. She defended the higher salary package, noting that Sheila Cumberland, who is finance director and deputy city manager, makes $10,814 per month; and Art deWerk, who is Public Safety Department director, makes $11,646 monthly.

Mayor Chris Vierra agreed.

"This amount is less than we have had for the interim positions before," said Vierra. "... the city manager, whether it's interim or permanent, is the CEO of the organization and if we're saying that salary should be something less, then does that mean we need to adjust everybody's salary below that? Because you don't have very many cities or very companies where the president is making less than the working class."

Vierra commented that $12,000 per month "is a bargain for the city."

Councilmember Ken Lane had no problems with the $144,000 annual salary for Wells nor offering a three-month severance package.

"But frankly, I'm tired of this ‘acting' thing too," said Lane. "I mean, the leadership at the top is very important."

Lane expressed concern with adding too many responsibilities on Wells' plate, saying "I don't want to set him up for any failure here because I think he's very capable of being city manager for our city and I think we're lucky to have him honestly."

Ryno also said she wants a "real city manager."

When the public was allowed to comment, Ceres resident Leonard Shepherd suggested making Wells a full time city engineer or permanent city manager.

"We can't go on playing this ‘acting' stuff because it's going to kill us soon," said Shepherd, "because he's going to burn out ..."